The Northman is a 2022 action-adventure movie by Focus Features about a Nordic prince who seeks to avenge his father. Prince Amleth is enraged by his father’s death and the betrayal to blame. His father is murdered when he is just a boy and just after his initiation into manhood where he partakes in the rituals of the Norse. The Northman is directed by Robert Eggers.
Amleth, played by Alexander Skarsgård, is the son of King Aurvandill War-Raven, played by Ethan Hawke. The king comes home after being out in battle and is injured. He chooses to initiate his son and prepare him for what is to come instead of resting and healing his wounds. Amleth and his father then go on to perform the Nordic ritual and Amleth learns the ways of his ancestors. He also has a vision where he sees the Tree of Kings. Even more, his father makes him swear that if he [his father] is slain in battle, he shall avenge him.
Valholl, Nordic Valhalla
The Nords who die in battle go to Valholl. Amleth’s father teaches him that a king should die with honor in battle. The Nords believe that when one dies in battle and is a strong Viking, the gates of Valholl will open to them and they shall be carried there in a glorious horse. Therefore, when one dies, a horse is slain and laid alongside the body. In some messed-up ritual, a woman may also be sacrificed to carry or take the deceased to Valholl.
Fjölnir the Brotherless
King Aurvandill’s brother, Fjolnir, played by Claes Bang, attacks him while coming out of the ritual with Amleth. He slays the king, his unafraid and stoic brother who tells him to do it, without flinching or batting an eye. The king tells Amleth to escape and Fjolnir sends his men after him. On slaying the king, Fjolnir also attacks the village and becomes king. He kidnaps Amleth’s mother, Queen Gudrún, and Amleth escapes vowing to avenge his father, save his mother, and kill his uncle.
Amleth grows up to become a Viking who is part of a wild Viking group that raids Slavic villages. They raid a village where he overhears one of the other Vikings mentioning Fjolnir the brotherless, to whom some of the slaves are to be taken. The slaves get a mark, which Amleth also burns onto himself as he plans to go take his vengeance. Amleth swims to the boat going to Iceland, where his uncle now lives, and pretends to be a slave. Apparently, his father was slain for nothing as on Fjolnir taking over as king, the King of Norway raided their village and retook his kingdom.
Amleth also encounters a seer/seeress, played by Björk, who tells him that from the ashes of his revenge will rise a maiden king, which can be interpreted as to say a queen who will lead her people by the sword and ax.
Amleth, unlike the other slaves, is strong and brute and is retained by Fjolnir along with some of the other slaves as the others are sold and discarded. He comes across as a strong slave and even saves Gunnar, Fjolnir, and his mother’s son. On kidnapping Amleth’s mother, Fjolnir has a son with her who they named Gunnar.
Olga of the Birch Forest
Amleth comes across Olga, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, one of the other slaves from the village he and the other wild Vikings raided. Olga and Amleth grow close. She is a witch and resistant to the advances of Fjolnir and his men who want to take advantage of her. She and Amleth grow close and fall in love. She helps him make Fjolnir’s life a living hell and tends to him when he gets caught while defending her from being slain by Fjolnir.
Draugr, A Blood-Hungry Sword
Amleth goes out to retrieve an ancient sword named Draugr, from a mound-dwelling revenant; after he comes across a he-witch who summons the spirit of his late father’s now-slain friend, Heimir the Fool, played by Willem Dafoe. Heimir reincarnate tells him that he has to go to the mound and retrieve the supernatural sword with which he will exact his vengeance. Amleth goes on and slays the vampire revenant. He retrieves the sword and learns that it can only work at night and is blood-hungry.
Amleth and Olga slay most of Fjolnir’s men. Olga, being a witch, uses mushrooms that she puts in the group’s food to make them go mad. In this madness, they end up killing themselves, an intended effect of the mushrooms. Their tactics haunt Fjolnir and after Amleth is caught and detained, he is released by ravens and goes on to slay his mother and Gunnar.
Amleth’s mother, Queen Gudrún, played by Nicole Kidman, isn’t what he makes her out to be. On going to her room to reveal himself and save her, Amleth discovers that she was part of Fjolnir’s plan to kill his father. Queen Gudrún confesses to having been in love with Fjolnir even when her husband King Aurvandill was alive. She tells Amleth that she begged Fjolnir to kill his father and that she is in love with him and that that love bore Gunnar, her pride and joy. Amleth is enraged and ends up killing her and her son during an attack on Fjolnir. The two come out of hiding and attack him and he slays them.
The Choice between Vengeance and Kindness to Family
The seeress that Amleth encountered in the Slavic village also told him that he would have to choose between vengeance and kindness to his family. After being caught and freed by ravens, Olga takes care of him and they get on a ship to leave Iceland. Amleth touches Olga’s wound and sees his unborn children, a boy, and a girl. The girl wears a crown and is holding a sword and ax. She is the maiden king the seer spoke about. On seeing this, Amleth has to make a choice on whether to go back and avenge his father, to also protect his family, or to stay with Olga and go with her. He chooses both and heads back for his vengeance.
The Battle of Vengeance
At this point, Fjolnir also wants vengeance against Amleth for killing his wife, Queen Gudrún, and their son Gunnar. The two face off at the foot of the volcanic mountain. Amleth, already weak from his wounds, manages to slay Fjolnir but is at the same time also slain. He sees a vision of Olga and their two children on his dying breath. Olga tells him that they are safe and that he can now go on to Valholl. He sees the gates of Valholl open and stops breathing. He is carried to Valholl on a white horse with honor and valor. He avenged his father, even if it meant losing his own life. He now goes on to take his place on the Tree of Kings.
A very intricate and interesting film, The Northman is a thrill to watch. It is very well written and acted and made us miss the series Vikings. We loved the movie and give it an 8.5/10. It is a definite must-watch and be warned that it has some depictions of violence and is not suitable for audiences under the age of 18. It is a Viking movie, after all, and what would those be without that? Enjoy and be sure to stay tuned for more movie reviews.
The Northman: A Call to the Gods Book
The Northman's creation is broken down in a book titled 'The Northman: A Call to the Gods'. It contains fascinating interviews with the filmmakers and cast; with a detailed background and BTS of how the movie came to be, and what message it intended to bring forth. Get it on Amazon using the button below.