The satisfaction of revenge

2022.04.23 06:30

The Northerner is a film that doesn’t go beyond presenting a realistic gory image and doesn’t offer one iota of a philosophical standpoint to ponder cause and effect on the hero.

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Robert Eggers, whom we know from The Witch and The Lighthouse, is a critically acclaimed director. The Northman, which was created as an epic Viking film and modeled on two independent art films shot on A24, was released. Sitting at the table with big studio execs and attempting a big budget $90 million film didn’t work out well for director Eggers. The mainstream and the avant-garde language could not cross each other’s borders and could not be intertwined.

The tale of vengeance of Prince Amleth, mentioned in Scandinavian legends and somewhat influencing Shakespeare’s Hamlet, was told in a work by the Danish theologian and historian Saxo Grammaticus. I also read it on this occasion. The Viking king (Ethan Hawke) returns home from war and embraces his wife (Nicole Kidman) and their teenage son Amleth in a structurally advanced Norse film set in 10th-century Iceland, where the warrior, conqueror and the expansionist Scandinavian society lived. When the king’s father is killed by his brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang), Amleth flees and swears revenge.

satisfaction of revenge

The setting that Robert Eggers created for his film actually reflected Viking culture as accurately as possible. The director did not hesitate to show in the bloodiest and harshest way the extremely violent practices of the Vikings, known for their ruthlessness, brutal enslavement of their enemies and rituals of human sacrifice. However, in this reality that is too bloody and too brutal, we have a character who cannot go beyond being one of the characters in this spiral of violence. It’s not that interesting that the tall-looking scrawny character Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) wants to avenge his father, and his character is so dimensionless that there’s little reason for the audience to enjoy the journey.

The legends of the avenging heroes are a delight to watch as their faces are revealed and their tales intertwined with exploratory meanings. With Robert Eggers directing, one expects him to roll his camera further than the satisfaction that promises revenge. But that doesn’t happen. The film has no appeal other than showing violence at its most brutal. The Northerner is a film that doesn’t go beyond presenting a realistic gory image and doesn’t offer one iota of a philosophical standpoint to ponder cause and effect on the hero.


After the stunning performance of Anya Taylor-Joy joining the witches in the forest in Robert Eggers’ first film The Witch, even the actor’s perspective on the character was as vague as the mystical character Olga in the Northern film. The story of the duo that was supposed to be “Amleth and Olga” was poorly written and the chemistry of the actors was totally off. Skarsgård’s attempt to show the animal fury in Amleth got him into some pretty ridiculous situations. I have to say that I think Skarsgård is a bit old for the role. While we still remember him as Nicole Kidman’s husband on HBO’s Big Little Lies, it was odd that he starred in that film as Kidman’s son. It’s hard to understand why anyone other than Kidman insisted on playing the role, but the problem with the film is that neither Skarsgård nor Kidman and Taylor-Joy’s odd accents were tolerable.

The biggest problem was that the script was bad and the plot just didn’t go anywhere. Especially when he encountered his uncle Fjölnir, who was Amleth’s ultimate revenge target, he could kill instantly, but the scenes were pretty flat with a long wait. The film broke down when the supernatural elements involved in that wait lengthened the expected time. You wait so long for something to happen in the movie where the uncanny can’t be built up and has no intriguing aspects that you erase even as much as you see watching the movie. The choice is yours for the movie, the cinematography I didn’t even like except for the fight scene in the lava flows. But I didn’t enjoy a moment of this film, the main ingredients of which were blood, more blood, guts, mud, fire, decapitated horses, ravens, men roaring and howling.

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