Coming to theatres from director Robert Eggers and Focus Features comes the tale of loss, revenge and Valhalla with THE NORTHMAN.
Amleth (Oscar Novak) is a prince to his people living with Mother Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman). Excited about the return of his father King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke), they, along with the people greet the King and his brother Fjolnir (Claes Bang) home.
Spending time with the King, Amleth also is brought into the mystical world with the help of Heimir the Fool (Willem Dafoe). But it is not to last long as Amleth must run from those who wish to end his life. Reaching a boat, he retreats chanting of revenging and rescue.
Year pass as Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) is now a grown man accepted into a group of men who raid a village for slaves. Catching his eye is Olga of the Birch Forest (Anya Taylor-Joy), one of the women of the village. He also enters the dwelling of the village Seeress (Bjork) who tells him things he has long kept secret about himself.
He also discovers that some of the slaves are being sent to King Fjolnir and this sets him on a path of the revenge and rescue he has thought of for years. On the boat journey, Amleth and Olga become very close as he shares what his goal is. Arriving, he sees his mother who now has a young son and still no one knows who he truly is.
Except maybe the He-Witch who tells him exactly what to do and how to get what he is after. Moving toward the ultimate goal, Amleth discovers what he never even considered about his early years. Now, he must make the hardest decision of his life to save those he loves.
Skarsgard as the grown Amleth is absolutely stunning in this role. He has a, oddly, quite rage from the moment we see him on screen. It is almost as if he were living in a fog and happily taking on the role of brutal savage in the eyes of those are at his sword’s mercy. It takes a moment alone with a sorceress to wake him up and a trip with Olga to see there is something else, yet he has unfinished business. Skarsgard as Amleth takes us on a well thought out journey, step by step he takes the lead, and we go along with ease.
Bang as King Fjolnir has taken everything from Amleth and would never have thought there would come a time to be held accountable. When his village goes through strange circumstances, it is the furthest thing from his mind. Trying to maintain control becomes difficult and Bang’s character realizes that there is only one way to stop the madness – at the gates of hel.
Kidman as the Queen has moved on with her life in a new place and a young son who she clearly loves. Still ruling as a queen, she becomes frantic when the horrors of the village start hitting close to home. Kidman’s character has her story moments that tell of life without Amleth.
Taylor-Joy as Olga is very clear on who Amleth is and learns what he is trying to accomplish. Supporting whatever he decides to do, she feeds him information and helps to make plans for their departure. Taylor-Joy’s character understands why and what must happen and gives her character strength without fanfare but instead an intensity of spirit.
Hawke, Dafoe and Bjork have their roles to play and although brief, have an impact on the character of Amleth. These three invididuals offer insight to the young man’s future and their characters give equal intensity.
Other cast include Ian Whyte as Thorvaldr Giant-Crusher, Hafpor Bjornsson as Thorfinnr, Doa Barney as Melkorka, Olwen Fouere as Ashildur, Ralph Ineson as Captain Volodymyr, Kate Dickie as Halldora, Gustav Lindh as Thorir the Proud, Ingvar Sigurosson as the He-Witch, and Murray McArthur as Hakon Ironbeard.
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THE NORTHMAN is a cinematic experience for many reasons. First, there is such an emptiness (once away from the King’s village), from ships on the sea surrounded by the elements to Amleth’s journey across the same emptiness on land before reaching his destination. He may be with others, but the cinematography brings in the feeling of the world being so big and Amleth being so small in that world.
The cast brings a richness, and each has their own story to tell, and director Eggers gives ample time for that to occur. Amleth is so singularly focused on his own pain that, for the longest time, he does not see that he is not the only person in this madness. The fantastic images of the Shield Maiden (shout out to Katie Pattinson) are absolutely stunning, rich and full of emotion.
The story is brutal, ethereal and based in their strong and unbendable belief in the halls of Valhalla. Getting to that place honorably changes Amleth’s path and takes on the indestructible faith that evil must be destroyed. From childhood to manhood, his path is filled with strange twists of fate with a story that could easily be Shakespearean.
In the end – conquer your fate!