Robert Eggers is one of the most interesting filmmakers on the contemporary scene and has an undeniable passion for psychological and metaphysical horror. The young filmmaker made his official debut in the audiovisual industry a few years ago, with the release of the acclaimed period horror ‘The witch’ – which became an instant classic and critical success; shortly afterward, she placed her bets on a Lovecraftian reenactment entitled ‘The headlight’which reaffirmed its status unique today and has increased its legion of fans around the world. Now taking the time to orchestrate his next narrative, Eggers returns to the distant past for the war epic. ‘The Man of the North’.
Without a doubt, the feature film was one of the most anticipated of 2022 and came with very high expectations. After all, the very scope of the project already gave an air of greater magnitude, moving away from the subtleties of yore to a spectral tragedy driven by betrayal and revenge. On here, Alexander Skarsgard outlines his first collaboration with the filmmaker as he plays Amleth, a young Viking warrior who watches helplessly as his father (Ethan Hawke) is murdered by his uncle (Claes Bang) and the mother (Nicole Kidman) is forced to marry the tormentor who destroyed her family. Amleth then flees his homeland and vows to return to honor what happened to his progenitors and regain what rightfully belongs to him.
In fact, the main narrative doesn’t carry any originality with it, considering that plots involving family revenge have been part of world culture for as long as the world has been – well, it’s no surprise that Amleth’s original story, which inspired the feature film, has served as the basis for the construction of Shakespearean tragedy ‘Hamlet’ and later for animation ‘The Lion King’. This even marks the beginning of Eggers’ transition to mainstream and for the blockbustersrelying on a plot that is immediately recognized by the public without having to abandon the impeccable mannerisms it brings to the big screen – such as the sobriety of the color palette, the grim soundtrack and the aesthetic conduct of each of the sequences.
Indeed, ‘The Man of the North’ sounds less authorial than the director’s previous works – which doesn’t necessarily mark a problem, but rather just indicates that he is experimenting with new approaches to his own art and the legacy he wants to leave. Eggers gained notoriety at the same time as another darling of psychological horror, Ari Aster, as if both joined forces to bring the genre back to its past glories in a shocking, pleasant and difficult to digest remodeling, marked by nuances of complexity that cover the most diverse areas of human thought. The film starring Skarsgård would be no different: it is to be expected that the fabulous and reflective tenor of the narrative will not please everyone, and that is not even the goal; the idea is to show, within the mythical explored universe, the consequences and emptiness of a series of events that foreshadows the rise and fall of the titular character.
The main star does an amazing job, which is no surprise: Skarsgård had already demonstrated his immense strength as an actor in the acclaimed miniseries ‘Big Little Lies’, which won him numerous awards, and now he embodies a career divisive role that reaffirms his full potential. That said, he’s not the only one stealing the spotlight: Kidman, despite being in the background, traces a well-structured arc of resentment and vendetta alongside her character, culminating in one of the great plot twists; Anya Taylor-Joy resumes collaboration with Eggers restricted to herself as Olga, a Slavic sorceress and slave who hatches a plan with Amleth to help him get revenge; Bang poses unrecognizable as the executioner Fjölnir, who killed his brother to sit on the throne and was ousted and banished to the highlands; and even the legendary musician Bjork is cast as the ominous seer who foreshadows the path taken by the titular protagonist.
Every gear in the production is very well thought out and, even if it sometimes doesn’t reach its full potential, it denotes the concise choices that Eggers and his competent creative team make to create this millenary tale. Now, it’s no surprise that we have a theatrical content oozing in the main scenes, courtesy of the collaboration between the director and the poet and screenwriter. Sjonwhich honors Norse mythology by reintroducing it to viewers in all its minute detail; Jarin Blaschke, responsible for the photography, tries his best to harmonize the solidity of the Viking scenes with the resounding game between cold and heat, blue and orange, resignation and hate, playing with breathtaking scenographic alliterations; and, finally, we have the music composed by the duo Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsboroughsteeped in progressions that, despite being conventional, combine perfectly and practically with what we see on the big screen.
In the end, tragedy moves to familiar and distinct places at the same time: Eggers knows how to work with the story he is given and with the elements laid out in front of him, rearranging them as he sees fit for a particular purpose. And the goal here is to infuse the epic with the nihilistic understanding that nothing matters and that death is the only certainty in life – and this realization is what not only makes the feature film one of the most profound and impactful of the year. , as a beautiful chapter of Eggers’ explosive and flawless filmography.