The Northman Deserves More Than Cult Classic Status

The Northman Deserves More Than Cult Classic Status is the latest movie by director Robert Egger has a chance to turn out a crafty Viking epic that can combat the summer superheroes.

The director Robert Eggers talked about the endure of helming his first potential blockbuster in his recent interview. He said “The Northman is literally an epic” because it is an Icelandic revenge saga. He also said that it costs more than $70 million. This budget allowed him to give it a glimpse of cinema. This studio built them with three full valleys and many Viking ships. The last film of Egger “The Lighthouse” also has a lot of importance. If we put all these in a row, then no one will lose its power.

Eggers Psyche:

Eggers also confessed that he was offered a project of medium size that was in between “two guys in a lighthouse” and his large-scale Viking flick. The budget of Northman was small compared to Morbius. This project was full of art and this film has acquired frantic marketing as compared to the older successes of Eggers. In a New York interview, Eggers invoked Braveheart and said that posters (when he created the name of the film) have come embellished with the take “this generation’s Gladiator”. He said, “general sense is that if it is not one of these movies that we are messing”.

Gladiator and Northman both predict the superhero franchise boom. Egger said that he was interested in comic books from childhood. He also said, “sea creatures and wild men and monsters typed as my embarrassment”. Before going to the boffo box office Northman had already gained cult classic status. This weekend it is on track to bring $8 million to $12 million in the US. While it is not a mess, it is well below the end of the opening Spider-Man. Eggers feel shame about it. Eggers’ film is formally rich and ideologically daring and it deserves a wide range of audience.

The Theme of the Northman:

The Northman started with an eruption of a volcano. With a wide grin, a blond boy looks out at his island kingdom. His father was a king. He saw his father when he was returning with his uncle Fjolnir (Claes Bang). The king gets injured and tells his queen (Nicole Kidman) that now it is the moment for young Amleth to become a man. The king and the son start crawling through a muddy tunnel into a temple cave. They are howling like dogs. Willem Dafoe brings a burning torch flame to shout at them. After that, they start their walk-in woods. Then the boy escapes after slicing the guard’s nose by shouting “I will save my mother, I will save my father”. He also shouts at Fjolnir that I will kill you.

After several decades, the Amleth is grown to a man. He was a savagely ripped berserker who howled at the moon and slit the throats of his enemies. An Icelandic folktale of Northman is based on the Viking story of Amleth; Shakespeare drew on a 13th-century version of Hamlet in the history of the Danes. But unlike the Danish prince, Amleth is a psychotic monster, watching his fellow countrymen burn alive. When he hears that the slaves that he had made are to be sold to his uncle, he brands himself with a branding iron, passing himself off as one, and with Olga Goes, a witch played by Anya Taylor-Joy.

 Style of Eggers:

The style of Eggers was to mix horror with history. Accuracy, he said, is not necessary for historical films, but it borrows a helpful structure to the stories he wants to say. Eggers’ first film, The Witch, which cost $4 million, follows a family in 17th century New England, who leaves their village protection after religious conflict. Their new home, inevitably, sits on a ridiculously creepy dark wooden circle. Witches, according to Eggers, are women who do not conform to the expectations of society towards them, religious or otherwise. This rebellion turns them, in the imaginations of their accusers, into child-stealing Satanists. The film’s smart twist is to take this transformation literally; at the end of the movie, the innocent Thomasin, played by Taylor-Joy, has no choice but to accept witchcraft, selling her life for her survival and “the flavor of butter”.

The American horror story, “The Lighthouse”, is very less commercially appealing. It focuses on two lighthouse keepers, one a Veteran (Willem Dafoe), the other Novice (Robert Pattinson)- who are stranded on their island outpost. A kind of ludicrous fever dream, both men are villains: Defoe, for example, is closer to Captain Haddock than Captain Ahab, and Neptune Strike calls for Pattinson’s death because he refuses to appreciate his lobster dinner.

In other words, Eggers has not been many people’s first choice for his commercial photography and his answers in interviews show that he found it difficult to compromise for a wider audience. He referred to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev as an influence but said that “it’s not anywhere near that good, and Tarkovsky would hate [The Northman] with every bit of his Russian soul”. He disliked the audience screening process (although he admitted that it might have made the film more entertaining), suggested that including Valkyries was supposedly “unpleasant” but essential for a commercial picture, and announced that he was “sick” of thinking about the film at all.

Then it is amazing that The Northman feels like the film by Robert Eggers. Ahead of anything else, this film is nothing like a Gladiator. For one, there is very little court politics in this movie. (So, The Northman is also nothing like Game of Thrones; why scheme when you can act?) Eggers focuses instead on visually stunning battles, shot in grueling single takes, inspired by the Hungarian filmmaker Miklós Jancsó. He excels with strange rituals: The Berserkers (or bear-hunters, get it?) beat their breasts and dance in animal skins, while a shaman dressed as Odin pours into the fire. Just the artisanship behind their helmets shows that keen attention has been paid to the precision of the Vikings’ world. Asterix and Obelix, it is not.

Eggers calls his films ancient stories: The Northman is, in a warlike fashion, packed with symbols and signs. A recurring one is a tree of life, which connects Amleth’s past and future streams through glowing blue roots. And like all films of Eggers, this one features an iconic animal. In The Witch it was the goat of the Devil, Black Phillip; It was a one-eyed seagull in “The Lighthouse;” It’s Odin’s flock of ravens in “The Northman.” These images are undoubtedly amplified by Eggers and his cinematographer Jarin Blaschke’s preference for extreme close-ups and intricately storyboarded shots. A fight in a volcano sees the two fighters pause in profile, a momentary reflection from a dream sequence in The Lighthouse.

 The movie looks like a comic book at some points. But perhaps because my mind is currently swimming in the Elden Ring, The Northman reminds me most of a fantasy video game. This comparison first comes into focus during one of the film’s most obscenely violent moments, when Amleth dismembers two enemies and rearranges their body parts in a bloody Picasso. But then the similarities started to appear everywhere. The pieces of the movie’s set function like quests: passing through Icelandic hot springs; destroying the enemy village. There is a stealth section, where Amleth crawls over houses, looking almost identical in silhouette to Sekiro. There is a boss fight with a skeleton lord, where Amleth must bull the king into the moonlight to damage him. There is even a Croquet mini-game from hell, with players smashing each other’s skulls with mallets.

 This feeling emanates from Amleth itself. He is nothing like Maximus from Gladiator, a good guy. Perhaps, he’s a concept of great power, an ass-closer to Kratos in the God of War.  The film’s loud, sometimes stilted lines could be lifted straight out of an RPG’s dialog tree: Amleth calls himself “a hailstorm of vengeance and steel” and tells Taylor-Joy “I’ve never loved, just felt angry.” This tone may be the biggest weakness of the film. Amleth is single-minded, his motivations are few, and his fate is sealed. We know how this movie ends from the outset.

 Myth has always provided a good layout for games, so these overlaps are surprising. Myth has also provided excellent choices for cult classics (hello, Xena). Though, RPG fans and those fueling the current Viking revival will help Eggers pillage an audience from all the superheroes currently in the spotlight. He deserves it.

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