By Richard Prasedyoko
If you enjoyed “The Witch” and “The Lighthouse”, you should expect more from “The Northman”. Robert Eggers was given roughly $90 million to produce his latest movie, compared to $14 million combined from his previous two. The result is his best work yet.
Plot wise, “The Northman” does not stand out. It’s roughly the same for any historical movie. Loosely adapted from a series of books, Saxo Grammaticus’ “Gesta Danorum”, and William Shakespeare’s play, “Hamlet”, it’s a story about an heir to the throne, Amleth, who wants to avenge the death of the king. It’s a basic revenge story and even after a while, I kept comparing the plot to History Channel’s “Vikings” because of the similarities between the stories. Preferably, I would have loved to have seen Amleth’s coming of age, his anguish and desire to avenge. But the movie cuts that too short and focuses on the climax instead. But I liked that it also explored some of the Norse mythology; depiction of a seeress, Valkyries, Valhalla, and rituals that take place in the Vikings’ past.
Cinematography and directing is where it gets interesting. This is Robert Eggers’ best direction and Jarin Blaschke’s best cinematography yet. The one-take fight scenes and the use of natural lighting are very captivating. It’s magical and will make you wonder, how does one make those scenes, supported by the actors who are deeply in character. Anya Taylor-Joy gets the spotlight with her outstanding Slavic accent and language.
Robert Eggers truly strives for verisimilitude. I am certain that the scenes were not shot in a soundstage on a green screen. As a matter of fact, they built the set on location and this helps the movie to feel real because of the natural lighting that Jarin Blaschke preferred. We need to appreciate the fact that Robert Eggers still respects practical effects even in this day of computer-generated movies.
If you enjoy Robert Eggers’ previous movies, then you definitely will enjoy this one. Moreover, if you didn’t enjoy his previous movies, then you should see this one in the theaters because “The Northman” is more enjoyable and faster paced than his previous movies.