FILM THE NORTHMAN (STORY ANALYSIS)

THE NORTHMAN (STORY ANALYSIS)

The Northman is a 2022 American epic historical film directed by Robert Eggers, who co-wrote the screenplay with Sjón. The movie is based on the legend of Amleth, written by 12th century Danish author Saxo cognomine Longus. The movie stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Björk, and Willem Dafoe. 

S P O I L E R S

Thus, The Northman features a premise that is as old as the ages. Simply put –

Amleth, a Viking prince, sets out on a quest to avenge the murder of his father by his uncle, who also kidnapped his mother in the process.


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It seldom gets any more fundamental than this classic revenge tale and the story is told in a linear fashion, though filled with Norse mythic elements, with the requisite foreshadowing to build tension. Amleth (played by Skarsgård) has only one driving force in his life – to avenge his father and rescue his mother. Nothing else matters.

Amleth escapes from his father’s murderers at a young age and grows up to be a deadly killing machine. His quest is truly activated when he receives a prophecy from a seeress – from then on Amleth disguises himself as a slave to get himself onto his uncle Fjölnir’s farmland in Iceland.

Naturally, Amleth faces numerous obstacles along the way and in order to achieve his goal, he has to obtain a key weapon – a magical sword that can only be drawn at night or at the Gates of Hel, and a key ally – a fellow slave Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) who claims to be a sorceress. Once these in place, Amleth executes his grand plan of vengeance.

But of course, there is usually one more critical twist that the main character has to overcome before victory – and that is the fact that Amleth’s mother instigated the murder of his father – this is Amleth’s lowest point and finally compounded when, defending himself, he kills both his mother and young half-brother. This ultimately leads to his capture but with the aid of Olga, the climatic scene is staged at the at the Gates of Hel—the crater of the volcano Hekla.

Like the climax of Kirby’s New Gods (Orion vs Darkseid) or Revenge of the Sith (Obi-wan vs Anakin), the battle between Amleth and Fjölnir at the end of The Northman is the stuff of epic legend. Amleth fulfils his quest but is also struck down in the process and the movie closes with Amleth being carried to Valhalla by the mythic Valkyrie. Truly epic!

In the final analysis, The Northman is one of the best movies of 2022 – visceral and fantastical at the same time, nothing compares to classic story-telling. Highly recommended!

Official website

Now showing in Singapore cinemas.

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