‘The Northman’ Preview is a Vengeance-Fueled Frozen Epic

The first official trailer for The Northman arrived just before Christmas, pleading its case to take its place beside Braveheart, Gladiator, and Last of the Mohicans as a semi-historical epic that rains violence upon friend and foe alike in its quest for bloody vengeance.

Featuring the fire and ice indicative of its Icelandic setting, The Northman preview follows a young man who hardens into a musclebound warrior through trial and tribulation, set on a single goal: Vengeance.

“I will avenge you father. I will save you mother. I will kill you Fjölnir.”

Carrying the story is a star-laden cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgård, Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, and eclectic music star, Björk. Set in 10th-century Iceland, the film follows Amleth, a Viking boy prince who witnesses his father’s execution at the hand of his Uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang). Now grown (and portrayed by a ripped Skarsgård), Amleth embarks on an odyssey that will bring him from indentured labor to berserking revenge in brutal battle scenes that will stir even the chilliest of hearts.

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Eagle-eyed readers might recognize that the protagonist, Amleth, bears a similar name to the iconic character on whom he was based — Shakespeare’s titular Hamlet, whose uncle also murders his father to usurp the throne. This earlier Norse version, however, carries none of the hesitations and self-prevarications of the Elizabethan character. Amleth wields a battle ax that willingly claims many more victims than Hamlet’s poisoned sword. Instead of reluctance, Amleth is hell-bent on taking down the man who stole the crown.

“Why would you stow away to such a hellish place,” Anya Taylor-Joy-as-Olga asks.

“To find what was stolen from me,” Skarsgård as Amleth replies.

“And what was that?”

“The kingdom.”

What appears to be a Valkyrie, a maiden of Odin in Norse mythology, rides towards a heavenly light, likely guiding slain warriors towards Valhalla.
What appears to be a Valkyrie, a maiden of Odin in Norse mythology, rides towards a heavenly light, likely guiding slain warriors towards Valhalla. Focus Features/YouTube

Robert Eggers directed the film, finally achieving the epic that he was aiming for after being confined to smaller, independent films like The Witch and The Lighthouse over the last few years. Getting The Northman to the screen was no easy task, though. Production resumed in August last year after a long pandemic-related delay. Eggers, in a call from London where he was editing the film, told Entertainment Weekly that the vast saga was “by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done and by far the most ambitious.”

Eggers co-wrote the screenplay with the Icelandic poet and novelist Sjón after Björk introduced the pair. This landed the experimental musician the role of the Seeress in the film, a role seemingly made for her. In The Northman trailer, the singer whispers premonitions from the ether, eyes closed beneath beaded cowry shells hanging from a grain sheaf wreath.

“Remember for whom you shed your last teardrop,” Björk-as-the-Seeress whispers.

It looks like The Northman takes this advice to heart.

Focus Features is set to release the film in the United States on April 22.

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