Can’t get enough of the Hamlet storyline but wish it had more of a Viking flair? Do you wish that the lions in Lion King were replaced with big hairy guys? “The Northman” by Robert Eggers might just be the movie for you.
The Northman is director Robert Egger’s third feature-length film. The first two “The Witch” and “The Lighthouse” were both met with positive reception, the latter of which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. At this time, Northman is at 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, with many reviews praising its stellar visuals, attention to historical accuracy, and action-packed battle scenes.
The story follows Viking prince Amleth (Oscar Novak, as a boy, Alexander Skarsgård, later on) in a quest for vengeance against his uncle, Fjölnir (Claes Bang). As a child, Amleth saw Fjölnir kill his father (Ethan Hawke) and kidnap his mother (Nicole Kidman). Amleth goes on a rampage throughout Eastern Europe and loses his way in the process, forgetting his vow to avenge his father. With the help of the captured sorceress Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) and the transcendent Seeress (Björk), Amleth finds his way to his uncle’s farm as a slave. What happens between the two, we’ll leave for you to find out.
The Eggers film does all the things that Eggers films have been known to do, with an upgraded $90 million budget. The dreary skies, the old English, the animal messengers, and the appearance of Taylor-Joy as a witch-like figure. While Eggers has a certain formula of elements for his films, each feature has something unique to show. Northman’s time period of 10-century Iceland sets the background for one of the earliest iterations of the Hamlet storyline. The Scandanavian legend of Amleth is one of the main inspirations for Shakespeare’s tragedy (hint: take the “h” and put it in the front).
For this film, Eggers has also enlisted the help of Sjón, an Icelandic novelist and poet. The duo worked on the script together and have made some impressive bounds when it comes to historical accuracy and tone. Their partnership was a result of Sjón’s friendship with the legendary Björk, who appears in her first movie since 2000’s “Dancer in the Dark.”
While Eggers hits all the marks for a great Hollywood movie, it seems like it’ll be a financial letdown. Many are listing the movie as a big-budget arthouse film, which may a paradox in itself, but it’s not looking good for Universal’s Focus Features. As of now, it has only collected about $23.5 million globally. For reference, Lighthouse had a budget of $11 million and produced about $18 million worldwide.
Knowing Eggers’ track record, the financial success won’t change his directorial style or subject matter very much. His films have proven to be critically favored but it might have some studios apprehensive about greenlighting further projects. With what’s known about the troubled development of his Nosferatu project, we may be seeing doubtful results in real-time.