The undersold fantasy aspect was the biggest battle at the box office – The Hollywood Reporter
Blood, fire and fate. These three elements swirl in Robert Eggers’ films, as he borrows from the old to create something that feels new, surprising in its authenticity, and driven by a perspective that can only come from modern times, but a voice that feels distinctly exterior. of this one.
Eggers’ latest film, The man from the north, a Viking saga of revenge and love, is another example. It is, according to accounts by historical experts, the most accurate Viking story ever committed to screen. It’s also Eggers’ biggest film, swapping the mostly unique sets of The witch (2015) and Lighthouse (2019) for a vast epic over several years and in several countries.
But above all, in terms of context in our contemporary cinematic space, The man from the north, like Eggers’ previous two films, is a genre film, and those three aforementioned elements, blood, fire, and fate, are inherent to the genre and to what is now the unofficial Eggers trilogy. This makes The Northman’s place in our current space of cinema and pop culture – dominated by genre films and what are essentially big-budget fairy tales and myths – intriguing, especially considering the struggle of the film to become a box office draw despite critical adoration.
On the surface, the story of Amleth’s (Alexander Skarsgard) quest to avenge his father, Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke); saving his mother, Gudrun (Nicole Kidman); and killing his uncle Fjolnir (Claes Bang) is deceptively simple. At the same time, while being dubbed an original film, it is also a story of Hamletor a proto-narrative considering that Shakespeare was inspired by the legend of Amleth, so much so that he simply shifted the last letter to the fore.
Do not suggest The man from the north is a remake, rather than Eggers and co-writer Sjon drawing on familiar texts like so many of our contemporary blockbusters do. As far as we talk about it The man from the north being an original movie that left mainstream audiences in the cold, it’s not an entirely original tale. That’s not to say the story told isn’t great, but rather it’s Eggers’ style and precision approach that is original. Even through its distinct approach, The man from the north is Eggers’ most accessible and beloved film. (Still, the historical epic only grossed $24.9 million worldwide on an estimated $90 million budget.)
I would say, maybe unknowingly born out of a childhood love for comics that he eventually put aside, as shown in his profile at the new yorker, Eggers made a film that should have been able to ride the lure of the Marvel era of cinema, rewarding audiences who spent a decade at the altar of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and others with a rewarding experience that fulfills our need for heroes and sagas. Even the title of the film, The man from the northsuggests something superheroic, like The Batmanan effort to communicate the proto-ubermensch that drives the film.
The ranking of The man from the north as a genre film is something that has rarely been mentioned in discussions surrounding the film before its release. It has been dubbed everything from a historical drama to an art film by critics and audiences. There is an apparent hesitation to say The man from the north is a fantasy, if only because of a desire for the film to be shot more seriously, or to separate it from sword and sorcery movies like Dragon hunter (1981) or the master of beasts (1982).
Still, The man from the north is a film of witches, visions of the past and future, a bloodthirsty mystical sword that can only be wielded at night, a Draugr, a Valkyrie and an absolutely metallic climactic battle in the foot of an erupting volcano. It’s so inherently fantastic that it could be placed on a shelf next to Peter Jackson. the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03) and John Boorman’s Excalibur (nineteen eighty one).
I will go further and say The man from the north is not so different from star wars in terms of elements, themes, and adherence to Joseph Campbell’s structure The hero with a thousand faces. It’s worth considering how many extra viewers the film would have attracted early on if this context had been adopted. No, the value of a film is not determined by its box office, but The man from the north is, at its core, an R-rated take on the genre films we’ve been clamoring for right now, and in its attention to antique woodcarvings and pictorial diagrams, the closest Eggers will probably ever come to making a comic book movie .
Reluctance to call The man from the north what it is in the middle of the talk surrounding ‘theme park movies’ sounds like a situation quite similar to the whole ‘high horror’ conversation, or trying to describe horror movies in other terms , such as “social thriller”, “black comedy”, “psychological drama with elements of the supernatural. It’s somewhat amusing to watch filmmakers and audiences attempt to assert that a movie is outside of a genre that also includes schlock.
Still, the whimsy of Eggers’ movies is key to what makes them so appealing, and the filmmaker doesn’t shy away from that. The witch is a story of becoming, of ascending through self-affirmation, and of a soul’s struggle to choose (“Would you like to live deliciously?”) in the midst of a larger game played by God and the Devil. Likewise, Lighthouse is a tale that engages various mythologies and belief systems, Norse and Greco-Roman mythology and Christianity in a veritable clash of the titans with man caught in the midst of his millennia of conjured gods (“How long have we been on that rock?”). As horror, it was easier for those two movies, especially The witch, to be embraced as gender. But The man from the north was placed in the odd position of having to justify itself as either an over-budgeted experience or an audition for a franchise movie entry, while being neither.
What’s interesting is that Eggers’ career as a filmmaker who takes myths and folk tales and literalizes them for audiences is happening at the same time we’re seeing an onslaught of IP works, universes Marvel and DC cinematic The iron Throne and the witcher spin off. Certainly, some would say that Eggers’ work stands in the way of this, fighting for his life against such other forms of entertainment. But what carries more weight to me is the notion that Eggers’ films are complementary pieces to these larger IP films, working within the context of our superhero and Jedi stories. Truly, Eggers and the projects that make up our most popular form of entertainment draw from the same sources, and watching one of Eggers’ films is a reminder of where these popular elements came from and what they were built on. . We see the future of genre films and Ur-text at the same time, giving us a window into storytelling that we’ve never had before.
Recently, there’s been a lot of talk surrounding Eggers’ commitment to putting movies in the past and what that means, with some saying the approach limits diversity and inclusivity in its films. Yet it is Eggers’ ability to make the past accessible that makes him so crucial today and a much-needed voice alongside our contemporary American mythos of capped heroes and laser-sword-wielding wizards. Asked about his decision to place all his films in the past by Sam Knight for the new yorker, Eggers quoted the poet John Dryden, “For mankind is still the same and nothing is lost out of nature, though all is changed.” I think that says a lot about what Eggers has to say about us as modern people, but also how we interact with his films and those with a more familiar logo or brand name.
There’s a lot to enjoy in our altered mythos, fantasies of Tatooine, Gotham City, Earth-616, and more. But the fact that we can see our storytelling past, the tales that made us myth makers and where they can be tapped into, much like the world tree built by heart and vein, Yggdrasil, that connects Amleth to its ancestors, is essential to our humanity. and understand what we value and why. The man from the north is not diametrically opposed to our modern pop cinematic and cultural landscape, but an invitation to see these flights of fantasy in the realm of the genre, not as studio-owned content, but as a legacy of our shared history. of storytelling.