The Northman

The Northman 2022

Directed by Robert Eggers. Screenplay by Robert Eggers and Sjon.

I saw The Northman in its opening weekend at a fairly well attended screening at The State, and from the opening scenes (unlike my last cinema outing) you could’ve heard pin drop. This chaotic and extremely bloody film is loosely based on the saga of Amleth, (also the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet) which forms part of the ‘Gesta Danorum’ or ‘History of the Danes’ from the 12th century.

Here, Eggers has teamed with Icelandic writer Sjon, who also wrote the screenplay for the much lauded Lamb (2021). The result is a mesmerising fever dream of epic proportions. Featuring Alexander Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy, Claes Bang, Nicole Kidman and Ethan Hawke, this boasts a great supporting cast, including Willem Dafoe, Ingvar Sigurdsson and the wonderful Björk. The production was one of many delayed by Covid, but I think in this case, it has worked in favour of The Northman, with the end result a very polished production.

There are many, MANY fight sequences and they’re excellently choreographed by C C Smiff and shot by cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, a constant collaborator on all Eggers’ features. The framing throughout is superb but one scene in particular has stayed with me, a beserker raid on a village that contains a lengthy tracking shot through a village. Filmed in one take, it is wonderfully balletic as well as incredibly bloody. All praise too for stunt coordinator Jòn Vidar Ambórsson and his team, who really made me wince and occasionally, gasp for breath! The original soundtrack by Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough is perfect – front and centre when required and unobtrusive for the remainder. Similarly, there’s been a lot of work poured into costuming and historical accuracy, right down to a valkyrie with dental adornments and a he-witch in women’s clothing – real practices in Iron Age Viking culture.

Having a much bigger budget for this third feature has also opened up new horizons (literally) for Eggers. After the intentionally stifling feel of the New England forest (and Thomasin’s tiny family cabin) in The Witch (2015) and the similarly claustrophobic feel of The Lighthouse (2019), the broad horizons and multiple locations of The Northman give an appropriate sweeping, epic feel to this saga of vengeance and love. It fleetingly draws a shade of grey over Amleth’s quest (a thread that could’ve been pulled a little more I feel) but it remains a top class epic revenge saga.

If like me, you’re a fan of Eggers’ brand of visceral dark horror (yes, it is a horror movie), I’m sure you’ll enjoy this and, like his previous films, I’m sure this will stand repeated rewatching. But be aware, it isn’t for the squeamish or faint hearted. The Northman is currently in wide release globally and I suggest seeing it on the biggest screen possible. Very highly recommended.


Titane (2021)
Directed and written by Julia Ducournau.

I watched this a week ago and I’ve been sitting on my review for days, tweaking words, trying to find the language to describe it without spoiling it. Seriously, this movie is difficult, demanding, utterly insane, at times hard to watch but it’s also blackly funny, deeply poignant but impossible to neglect and has stayed with me relentlessly all week.

Titane is Ducournau’s second feature and, in my opinion, a better, more interesting film than her debut, Raw (2017), which left me feeling distanced, at arm’s length from the story and the characters. Where Raw was clearly examining eating disorders and body image, Titane examines body image but particularly drills down into gender roles.

It’s also a film of two distinct halves, the ultra violent, hypersexualised first half, melancholic examination of belonging in the other. Body horror abounds throughout, so this film is not for everyone, certainly not for the faint hearted but unlike so many films that sit in the genre, none of the violence feels gratuitous.

Two riveting central performances ground the film. Comparative newcomer Agathe Rousselle is the tough and uncompromising Alexia, and French national treasure Vincent Lindon, the ageing firefighter trying to defy the march of time. Neither of them are particularly likeable (especially Alexia) but ultimately both are heartbreakingly relatable.

Ducournau is a wonderful “show, don’t tell” filmmaker and I can see where she was influenced by Hitchcock generally and Vertigo (1958) specifically, but Titane asks more questions than it answers and will haunt you all the while. I sincerely hope it is a huge success outside of its native France, where it won the Cannes Festival Palme D’Or earlier this year. But equally, I hope some producer with dollar signs in their eyes DOESN’T try and make an English language version – that would be exploitation!

Undoubtedly one of the most original films I’ve seen in ages, I think it’s a masterpiece that will stand the test of time. Titane is currently showing in select cinemas throughout Australia.