Robert Eggers is winding the clock back further than ever before. The rising genre filmmaker has made a name for himself with slavishly detailed recreations of New England in the 1890s (on The Lighthouse) and circa the seventeenth-century era known as the First Period (for The Witch), but for his third feature, he’s taking leave of his corner of America and going medieval.
10th-century Iceland sets the scene for The Northman, the first trailer for which appeared online just this morning. Eggers has brought his skills with period production design, his fascination with characters pushed to the precipice of sanity, and his curiosity about long-past culture to what appears to be the biggest, most ambitious project of his career to date.
The fittingly Scandinavian Alexander Skarsgård leads the cast as Amleth, a Viking set on the path of revenge when his father Horvendill (Ethan Hawke) is murdered by the cad Fjölnir (Claes Bang) in his boyhood years. The adult Amleth pledges himself to a three-tenet lifestyle – avenge his father, save his mother Gudrun (Nicole Kidman), and kill Fjölnir – and sets out on a grand and perilous odyssey to fulfill his destiny, with the help of an ally (Anya Taylor-Joy) and the dark sorceress known as the Slav Witch (Björk).
While the meticulous realization of the setting marks this as Eggers’ unmistakable handiwork, there’s an air of the epic here that hasn’t been seen in his oeuvre before. The battle scenes evoking the gnarly, dirt-caked clashes of Game of Thrones (or, in all likelihood more accurately, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising) move Eggers into an unfamiliar mode, and perhaps a more commercial one as well – after all, this sure looks like his highest-budgeted film yet.
Whatever pivots the director makes in his next film, a few things are assured. We will behold the malevolent might of the natural world, we will learn a lot about how the Vikings lived beyond the classic horned hats, and we will witness the absolute obliteration of the foolhardy Fjölnir. Can we skip ahead to 2022 already?
The Northman comes to cinemas on 22 April, 2022.
Published 20 Dec 2021
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