“The Northman“- a fierce fight where the main character wants only one thing – revenge. The film is full of Scandinavian mythology and is based on the Viking legend that inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet. So, at the heart of the story is the legend of Amlet. A Viking prince who swore to avenge the death of his father, who was killed by his own brother, Fjolnir.
The story is fueled by the protagonist’s anger and the intervention of supernatural forces to help him complete his mission. This man won’t stop. We understand what happened and how. Attention: spoilers!
What is the movie “The Northman” about
Before the eyes of the little prince Amleth, his father is killed. Moreover, this is done by the uncle of the protagonist – a bastard named Fjolnir. The usurper orders the elimination of the legitimate heir to the throne, after which he takes the throne and takes the queen as his wife. But Amlet manages to escape.
Amleth grows into a silent, muscular warrior with the face of Alexander Skarsgård. The prince participates in robbery raids in Rus’ and provides local princes with slaves. After the next raid, he learns that one of the boats with prisoners is leaving for Iceland – to the same traitor Fjolnir.
It turns out that the treacherous uncle has lost his kingdom and now lives on a farm in the middle of a deserted island. Without thinking twice, Amlet puts himself a slave brand and enters the ship. There he meets and enlists the support of the Slavic witch Olga. In return, he needs help organizing an escape from slave captivity.
“The Northman” is brutal and straightforward
Perhaps the plot of “The Northman” seems remotely familiar to you. This is not surprising: Amlet can be considered the prototype of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hence the similarity of the names of the main characters, and the overall plot outline.
However, the film by Robert Eggers is devoid of high poetics. The director retells a familiar story with Scandinavian stoicism. Hamlet was tormented by the question “to be or not to be.” Amlet, on the other hand, goes ahead to the goal, periodically pronouncing the same mantra : “To avenge my father. Save mother. Kill Fjolnir.”
“The Northman” is a film-movement, a film-impulse. A brutal epic where problems can only be solved in one way: cut off someone’s head, rip out their tongue, or do something even worse. Against the backdrop of the utterly safe and comfortable Hollywood cinema, Eggers’ work is refreshingly uncompromising.
The ending turned out to be quite expected and sad: Amlet kills his uncle and goes to Valhalla, having received a mortal wound from that. And, nevertheless, it is worth considering this story more deeply, in layers.
Did berserkers really exist?
Berserkers are elite Viking warriors. Amlet came to them after escaping from his native village. In the film, they are very cruel: they destroy the village, kill its inhabitants, steal children, destroy everything in their path. But were they real? Yes, there were berserkers. In combat, they could be identified by the animal skins worn. And the berserkers robbed, raping and killing along the way. The name “berserk” implies excessive rage and cruelty.
Why did it take years for Amlet to track down Fjolnir?
When Aurvandil was killed, Amleth vowed revenge. But many years passed before the main character realized his plan. Considering the fact that Amleth spent a lot of time with the berserkers, he was probably biding his time and preparing for battle. In his youth, he did not have the necessary skills and means to attack Fjolnir.
It is also likely that the main character is used to being with the berserkers who accepted him and trained him to be a warrior. Amlet was able to build a new life without being tied to the past. When he visits the Diviner, he is already ready to meet face to face.
Why Amlet sees Valkyrie
Shortly before his death, the main character has a vision of a Valkyrie flying with him to Valhalla. This is a sign of death, but here it is only an omen. Amlet will most certainly not survive the events shown, but it is not yet time for him to go to Valhalla. Amlet is actually already dead, struck by Fjolnir in the heart, but he sees Olga with their children, and not the Valkyrie. Seeing your family alive is already enough for Amlet.
The True Nature of Aurvandil
King Aurvandil is shown with a respectful side only in the eyes of Amleth. In this case, the plan of revenge is absolutely justified. But studying the true nature of this man (the rapist-slave owner who cared only about himself) changes the situation radically. The revelation of Aurvandil’s identity does not detract from Amleth’s rage and his reasons for destroying his uncle. On the other hand, the discovery raises doubts with unquestioning cruel revenge. Yes, and Gudrun causes a little more sympathy, because her request to kill her own husband becomes clear.
Why the soothsayer and the sorceress help Amlet
The soothsayer and the sorceress come to Amleth so that he can achieve his goal. The seer already knows what will happen in the future, so her help to the protagonist is optional. But her appearance in the village, captured by berserkers, is just the right time for the development of the character, since from now on he is ready to accept the challenge, and the seer directs him.
As for Heimir, he had an affection for Aurvandil, so he intended to keep the king’s bloodline alive. Therefore, he was the spiritual mentor of Amlet, directing his sword, with which he eventually killed Fjolnir.
“The Northman” is a unique movie, the likes of which will not be seen for a long time
Historical blockbusters like Gladiator used to do well at the box office. Now even directors of the level of Ridley Scott fail to attract viewers to the cinema for historical epics. His film “The Last Duel” also received warm reviews and still performed poorly at the box office. And this is despite the cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Ben Affleck and Jodie Comer starred in the film.
The fact that Eggers was even given $90 million to shoot Varyag is a big miracle. Especially considering that the director shot The Lighthouse and The Witch for five million.
The picture failed at the box office, collecting 69 million worldwide. For a payback, taking into account the costs of promotion, at least 200 were needed. This is not surprising: now only film comics and blockbusters based on well-known franchises pay off such budgets. Not a dark epic about the Vikings.
Therefore, “The Northman” can be considered the last big-budget representative of the genre in the near future. It is unlikely that we will soon see other similar films. The same textured, naturalistic, filmed in picturesque locations, with expensive scenery of medieval villages. Eggers’ picture is wild and unbridled, it does not seek to please an unprepared viewer – but it fully endows everyone who is ready to accept its barbaric essence.