The Northman: Vikings as you’ve never seen them in the cinema

When we met Alexander Skarsgard, the main actor of The Northmanin the spring of 2021 to discuss the release of godzilla vs kong, the actor had a hard time hiding his excitement from us. The Swede had just finished filming this famous The Northman, which hits theaters Wednesday, May 11. An ample project to which he had devoted several years and which had to face many obstacles to reach the world: rough conditions in the Northern Irish regions, where filming lasted more than six months, and the arrival of the Covid-19 crisis. The elements did not fail to play their turn on the adaptation of this Icelandic legend. However, the experience remained for Alexander Skarsgard what he had done “most exciting in his career” and seeing the result, we understand better why.

Revenge film with a budget of 90 million dollars, The Northman draws its charm from the discrepancy that exists between the means allocated to the story (large action scenes shot in sequence, grandiose cast and sublime landscapes) and the absolute simplicity of what it tells. At 10è century, the young prince Amleth witnesses helplessly the death of his father and the kidnapping of his mother. He manages to escape and promises to take revenge on the man behind this tragedy. Years later, Amleth has become a bloodthirsty Viking warrior, and his revenge promises to be at least as brutal as the anger he has shaped throughout his life.

Amleth (Alexander Skarsgard) and Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) will join forces to put an end to the reign of Fjölnir (Claes Bang).Aidan Monaghan/Universal Pictures France

The two previous feature films by Robert Eggers, The Witch and The Lighthouse, already gave pride of place to folklore in its most radical and punctilious aspect. To tell his stories, the American director does not intend to restore the time in its prettiness but privileges the way in which the characters fight against their environment but also try to survive against the violent and unpredictable nature of human beings. Co-written with the Icelandic poet Sjón, the film affirms its lyricism while drowning it in a concrete and suffocating reality, that of plentiful looting and a toxic masculinity erected into law. To date his most ambitious film, combining the grandiose epic with a mysticism from Nordic legends, The Northman is a cinematic experience of such fury that the Hollywood industry has produced little in recent years. With its simplistic scenario and its characters limited to the rank of pure function (despite Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe or even the singer Björk), the film puts at the center of all the aggressiveness with which Amleth, camped by an Alexander Skarsgard transcended — and bodybuilt —, carries out his repairing project.