Going Viking


When it comes to historically accurate period pieces, you aren’t going to get much better than director Robert Eggers. The Northman is his third feature film to date, following his debut The Witch and his follow-up, The Lighthouse. While his first two movies were made with relatively small budgets, Eggers actually had a 70-90 million dollar budget to work with for The Northman, and knowing what he was capable of creating with much smaller budgets, there was a lot of anticipation for this film. 

However, I have to admit, that the result was a little underwhelming. Not that I’d ever consider The Northman to be a badly made movie, but comparing it to Egger’s body of work, this film is certainly the weakest. I thought that perhaps my expectations for this film might have been a little too high, even re-watching it to see whether it would be more enjoyable the second time around. While I was more prepared for what this movie had to offer the second time around, it didn’t really change my opinion of it too much. I still believe it is one of Eggers’ weakest films.

Nevertheless, this film is still very well made. There is a lot to appreciate about it especially in a visual sense as it has some really incredible cinematography, with iconic shots littered all over its runtime. Some of the night-time shots were illuminated as if the film reels were soaked in moonlight, giving you this eerie look.

I also enjoyed how it incorporated its fantasy elements, blending in with the time and the beliefs of the people. Even the plot, though straightforward, felt much focused and reasonably compelling. You know from the very beginning what this movie is going to be about, and it followed through on delivering a very focused story, while also offering a creative way of delivering it.

As far as historical accuracy goes, Eggers is known for doing a meticulous amount of research when creating his stories, so it was nice to see and learn more about this culture and this point in time in a way that was true to what we know.

However, I don’t think I was ever able to fully immerse myself in the story. A big part of this was the accents, which never felt fully consistent. You could tell that they were putting on an accent, which distracted me from being in this world and being immersed in this atmosphere.  Moreover, the dialogue also felt a little weak, but this might just be when you compare it to Eggers’ other films.

The Witch and The Lighthouse both had very particular accents with dialogue that followed a unique cadence and felt very poetic, working to bring you into this world for the duration of its runtime. While this movie had a few points with dialogue that stood out as being quite deep and resonant, it was more often than not quite normal, even bordering on cheesy at times.

Moreover, as you know what route the movie is going to follow, the film’s pacing felt a little slow, as there are definitely moments where you want things to move along faster. I also didn’t like the special effects that they used when creating this ancestral tree, as it felt very obviously computer-generated and quite unimaginatively designed.

Yet, one of the biggest weaknesses of this movie has to be its fight sequences. While I didn’t really go into this movie expecting to be wow-ed by huge bloody clashes, I came out of the movie being really underwhelmed with them. They never felt raw or dangerous, feeling incredibly choreographed, where at some points you could feel the stunt actors wait to be attacked by others. From a movie with such a big focus on fighting, these portions were quite disappointing.

However, I had to sit down and ask myself, if this movie was directed by anyone other than Robert Eggers, what would my opinion of it have been? Well, I would have definitely considered this movie a lot more impressive, as while my criticisms still hold true, this movie is still incredibly unique and very well made. But with The Lighthouse being my favourite movie of 2019, it is impossible not to hold a sense of disappointment in this movie. I’d still recommend checking it out, especially if you haven’t seen any of Eggers’ other work, as it will likely be a unique experience.

By Sadira Sittampalam