‘The Northman’: a brilliantly successful experimental movie?

“The Northman,” a violent epic about Vikings revenge, is not a good movie. He is like a “gladiator” without the Colosseum and an uninteresting, stubborn avenger hero. (It also takes 45 minutes longer than it should.) Many critics exaggerated the film’s praise because they felt they had invested in the career of Robert Eggers, the independent filmmaker who made the Puritan spectral horror film “The Witch” (2015) and the most impressive of its time. Two men fever in the lighthouse of a dream “The Lighthouse” (2019). I am also an investor. I share Eggers’ enthusiasm – he’s a huge talent.

However, as much as ‘The Northman’ is a medieval Icelandic epic adorned with fire, blood, slime, folkloric hallucinations, and random lumps of mystical Norse weirdness (not to mention the more grotesque element of ‘Hamlet’ that kicks in a bit), I only wish I could say the movie failed. Because it transcends all of those things. Three years ago, “The Lighthouse” felt steeped in 19th-century weirdness, with Willem Dafoe performing the fierce, blazing-eyed, babbling, ancient sea dog as a kind of human time machine. In “The Northman” the tall decorations are displayed with fetish reverence, but in the end they are just window decorations.

A few critics have named the film for what it is, notably Peter Debruge in his film diverse revision, so I don’t feel the need to back up. What I want to add to the dialogue is that when I watched The Northman, I felt like I was watching two movies at once. The first is the disappointing one, which gives you glimpses (albeit not nearly enough of it) of the strange, eye-opening view of the Viking world that I wanted from Robert Eggers. The other is the traditional, cohesive and well-designed tale of power, anger and revenge that Northman lives in his bones. I said to myself: I’ve seen this movie before. He’s the person Conan the Barbarian wanted him to be 40 years ago.

Eggers noted that he was forced to give up his vision due to both the pandemic and the demands made in its wake by Focus Features, the studio behind “The Northman.” But without being aware of too many details about the subject matter of those creative battles (one of which was that he wanted to shoot the entire movie in Iceland but wasn’t able to catch up to Ireland with CGI), you have to wonder: How badly “The Northman” was really hurt by the dictates of the studio Given that the film’s lackluster aspects lie at its core?

I loved the first scenes with Ethan Hawke, who brought filthy humanity to the role of King Orvandel. But the first place I felt the movie go wrong was in the brutal, illustrious sequence in which the king’s son, Amelith, is involved in the pillaging of a walled village, having matured into a brooding man played by Alexander Skarsgård. A piece of the Eggers’ great rape and pillage group, there’s no denying that it was orchestrated with the skill of a fierce and bloodthirsty dancer, the camera tracks Amelith through the village as he crushes his sword at anyone who comes his way, perhaps cutting a limb or two, approaching each victim as if He was hitting a mosquito. It is, in short, invincible. We’re supposed to record it all and think, “Cool.”

but no A native Does the Vikings saga make its funny hero seem like a boy less indomitable than the mighty bull? The scene of the destruction of the village is not depicted as a thrilling combat series; It was filmed like a video game. This is more than just a business logistical issue. It also reflects an ideology, a kind of reductionism that makes us the force that makes us unmotivated or destructive as much as it leaves us isolated. The people he kills are innocent. Shouldn’t we feel something besides the intense dread of what video games do? In a way, I don’t feel as though the choice of how to film this sequence was forced upon Robert Eggers. And I don’t think Focus executives gave him a note that said, “Robert, how many times have we talked about this? You You have To make your hero less exciting.”

After “The Lighthouse” and “The Witch,” what “The Northman” reveals about Robert Eggers is that he is perfectly capable, on his own, of dreaming up an epic action movie that hits all the honored notes of the market test. True, The Northman, which took in just $12 million this weekend (on a $90 million production budget), wasn’t a hit. But it’s a movie that proves, far from the shadow of Mengele, that Eggers has the ability — and if he throws it in enough, the commercial vision — to direct blockbuster movies of heavy imitation. In The Northman, he didn’t make a lot of independent films that didn’t act as an inflated studio feature with independent trappings. He looks at me like he’s going in the mainstream.

There is a whole class of talented directors trying to evoke their sensitivity to influence the kind of material that was then coming in Roman numerals – and more often than not, what happens is that they end up swallowing it. By the end of this year, David Gordon Green will have made three “Halloween” movies, and for what? The first, at least, was instrumental nostalgia (it was like “The Force Awakens” from the pseudo-trap rubbish of the ’70s), but what David Gordon Green essentially delivered is gross box office revenue. (Next up for Green: the reboot of “The Exorcist.”) Of course, there are directors who are fulfilling themselves by embracing their inner B-movie geek, like Justin Lin, who became the lead author of the “Fast and Furious” series. And there are filmmakers who know how to envision the massively popular spirit, like Ryan Coogler, of Black Panther and Creed. Perhaps Robert Eggers will be one of them.

But what “The Northman” tells me is that while I want Eggers to make an assessment after this movie and go back to making films like “The Lighthouse,” what I can easily imagine happening instead is “The Northman,” in its fusion of high motor efficiency and lack of Dramatic, serves as a calling card movie. It’s not a good movie, but it failed due to the cut. It’s made in a weird way, without enough real drama to hold back the cut. The film does not skimp on emotional resonance as much as it does on slaughter. It’s numb enough to celebrate the start of a whole new career.

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