Saturday, October 1, 2022


Was The Northman an unfortunate case of the film-twitter hive-mind killing something before it even officially came out? I remember there being some light controversy about the film having subconscious connections to white nationalist ideology and toxic masculinity which couldn’t be fully shaken. White nationalists will find symbology & metaphors in anything. I wouldn’t put too much weight on a group of folks who look up to a cartoon frog. If they don’t hijack The Northman it’ll end up being something else. Why give them the power to essentially ruin a somewhat interesting movie?

Unfortunately that’s kind of what happened…

As for the Toxic masculinity - this is a violent Viking tale about revenge (a loose adaptation of the source material for hamlet mixed with a pinch of Conan The Barbarian). We all knew this from the trailer. Vikings were violent. Let’s not rewrite history. Just don’t watch this if it isn’t your thing (there is quite a bit of incoherent yelling & war chanting courtesy of the almost all- male cast). But at the same time there is a bit more to this movie than just violence. (it should be noted that Nicole Kidman steals the show in this predominantly male-heavy film).

I had zero expectations going in to this which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. I don’t put Robert Eggers on a pedestal like a lot of today’s blind A24 loyalists do, but I still enjoy his movies for the most part. The Northman is Eggers’ largest scaled project and it strays pretty far from the horror genre like his previous films. Something tells part of the reason this “flopped” is because folks wanted him to stay in the horror genre. For the folks that wanted something more like The Witch or The Lighthouse, Eggers still pulls from the same playbook referencing the same types of silent films and painting that he always does…

Witches Sabbath / The Northman

The Hands Of Orlac / The Northman

The Thief Baghad
 / The Northman

And there are elements of horror throughout. It just isn’t a “traditional” horror film like this previous works (and I don’t even know if I would consider those traditional horror movies either). The Northman still feels like a Robert Eggers film. 

Kurosawa was another influence on Eggers…

Throne Of Blood / The Northman

I think it’s really the Soviet Medieval epics and Kurosawa’s work that I turned to most as cinematic inspiration as well as John Milieus’ Conan - Robert Eggers, Indiewire

Throne Of Blood / The Northman

Conan The Barbarian / The Northman

This is me trying to do Conan The Barbarian by way of Andrei Rublev - Robert Eggers, Little White Lies

Andrei Rublev
 / The Northman

Eggers also once told Far Out magazine that Andrei Rublev was; probably just the best thing in cinema history. That love of  Tarkovsky certainly shows up in The Northman...

"The court jester"
Andrei Rublev
 / The Northman

Andrei Rublev
 / The Northman

In addition to the unfair pre-judgement I mentioned earlier, I wonder if The Northman fell short because it wasn’t deemed an immediate masterpiece. It feels like now more than ever when a movie isn’t immediately considered a masterpiece (or meme-worthy), it’s disposable. It’s as if when something is just an entertaining mid-budget popcorn movie it gets tossed aside as soon as the credits roll. It’s ok for movies to be fine. Very few movies are masterpieces. The “good”, “solid” and/or “fine” movies are what keep the lights on.

The best part of The Northman is Eggers’ use of Alexander Skarsgard. He’s an in-demand actor but with the exception of True Blood, no film had utilized his true Viking-like presence prior to The Northman. With all these smaller-framed leading men nowadays I think we should embrace an actor like him in a role like this who can tap in to his primal side.

To reiterate - The Northman doesn’t push the art of cinema forward but very few films actually do. It is a solid movie that was unfairly pre-judged that deserves a reassessment (which insane to even say because we’re still in the same year that it was released).


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