‘The Northman’ depicts brutal Viking tale in great detail


Courtesy of Aidan Monaghan and Focus Features

The Northman depicts the brutal history of Viking Culture.

Katherine Daly, Staff Writer

“The Northman” is not just another Viking tale. It’s loosely based on the tale of Amleth, full of Viking magic and the Norse Gods, and this proves to be important as the story unfolds. In 895 AD, the young Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) goes through a rite of passage ceremony accompanied by his father King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke)where they both act and howl like wolves, and the King’s Jester Heimir (Willem Dafoe) presides over the ritual. A seeress appears to Amleth and foretells his destiny. After Amleth’s father is slain by his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang,) he flees promising to avenge his father and to free his mother, Gudrún (Nicole Kidman), who Fjölnir has taken as his wife. Years go by and Amleth has now discovered that Fjölnir is now in Iceland with Gudrún. So he disguises himself as a slave and sets off to fulfill his destiny. Along the way, he accidentally meets and falls in love with Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), a sorceress. With great acting all around, you can really feel the emotions of the characters in a few of the scenes, and it leaves you wanting more.  


This film is brutal not only in its content but also in the way it portrays a world that is truly rough, brutish and alien to our own culture. This film focuses on a strong belief in fate and various spiritual aspirations which are hard for us to comprehend and reconcile. “The Northman”  recognizes people who live in a time period where life is fragile, fleeting, short and cheap, but it features characters who are gritty and real.  This film is not glamorizing anything whatsoever regarding war or Viking culture. It is honest and unforgiving in its historical retelling. The violence in this film is shocking at times, but it reflects the age in which it was set where life was excruciating. Even during Fjölnir’s coup, ordinary people are killed because they were in the way. During a berserker rage, Amleth bites the throat out of a Rus warrior but after the battle other Vikings slay women and children who aren’t useful. Slaves who might not last the winter are slain by Viking farmers. Gore flows through this saga, so if you are squeamish or faint of heart, then it is best to avoid “The Northman.”  


Visually, the whole film is beautiful with the epic landscape making the setting feel massive in nature, while the use of color and light makes the whole movie feel real and visceral. The performances were also excellent with Skarsgård standing out. His ferocity and brute force in this film are palpable, and, as a result, make his character almost feel more like a force of nature than a man.  


The film doesn’t pull any punches and makes the Vikings as accurate as possible, even if they don’t look remotely morally acceptable or relatable to modern audiences. In the end, “The Northman” is a thrilling story of adventure, betrayal, a thirst for revenge and the acceptance of a fate which is inevitable.