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The Northman

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“I will avenge you, Father. I will save you, Mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir.” Amleth (Alexander Skaarsgard)

So much for toxic masculinity. And testosterone. And whatever Hollywood injects into our culture to make males act crazy. The ultimate revenge film depicting the early use of the motif occurs in the new Norse, nail biting epic, The Northman.

Writer-Director Robert Eggars knows a thing or two about dark masculinity if you look at The Lighthouse with Willem Dafoe and Rob Pattinson duking it out on a claustrophobic job in the confines of a lighthouse tower. Eggars’ The Witch contained enough female wildfire to certify Eggars as a revenge auteur.

With help from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it’s easy to see the roots of that Elizabethan tragedy in this bloody tale of a son, Amleth, avenging the murder of his father, King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke), by his uncle, Fjolnir (Claes Bang). That leaves the mother, Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman), to deal with her avenging son. It’s a mess, but Shakespeare and Eggars do it justice.

Although Eggars’ dialogue lacks the Bard’s charm, The Northman brings the visual operation to unimaginable depths, creating a dark hell of primitive living and uncontrollable violence. However, Eggars never lets the darkness obscure the events because the dark is surprisingly effective reflecting evil’s hold on early man.

Although the revenge theme remains strong with Liam Neeson’s new Memory, The Northman has the feel of heavy humanity, where the seeds of aggression and family dysfunction have been uncommonly nourished. Even if you’re not a fan of blood bathing, The Northman goes a long way to illustrate how the violence coming out of Russia today has long been nourished in the human race.

Yet, Iceland is undeniably beautiful today—not so much when the Norse worked out their family problems.

The Northman

Director: Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse, The Witch)

Screenplay: Eggers, Sjon (Dancer in the Dark)

Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman

Run Time: 2h 16m

Rating: R

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take out of WCBE 90.5 FM. Contact him at JohnDeSando52@gmail.com

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, is host of WCBE's programs It's Movie Time and Cinema Classics, and the podcasts Back Talk and Double Take. Contact him at johndesando52@gmail.com.