The Northman

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

5/5 (1)

Where did Shakespeare get the idea for “Hamlet?” Like many of his plays, he appropriated it from past literature. Not plagiarized, but adapted. In the case of “Hamlet,” he relied on the work of Saxo cognomine Longus, a medieval Scandinavian historian.

In the third and fourth books of his “Gesta Danorum,” Saxo told the legend of Prince Amleth, the son of Horvendill, king of the Jutes. Amleth’s uncle murders his father and marries his mother. Amleth avenges his father by killing his uncle.

Sound familiar?

Amleth vs Hamlet.

Well, it takes on a new telling in a movie called “The Northman.” You can catch this historical epic fantasy in theaters.

This thriller gives us the story of the Viking warrior prince’s quest for revenge. It has a stellar cast – with Alexander Skarsgård (“Melancholia,” TV’s “True Blood,” and “Big Little Lies”) takes on the mantle of Prince Amleth; Nicole Kidman (“Moulin Rouge!,” “Being the Ricardos”) portrays his mother; Ethan Hawke (“Training Day”) wears the crown as his father; and Claes Bang (“The Square”) is the duplicitous uncle.

What’s more, Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit”) shows up as a sorceress called Olga of the Birch Forest; Björk (the singer known for “Dancer in the Dark”) is cast as a seeress; and Willem Dafoe (“Platoon,” “The Florida Project”) plays Heimir the Fool.

You also encounter a He-Witch, a Half Troll, and a Mound Dweller, among other denizens of these mythical Northern climes.

As you might expect in this retelling by director Robert Eggers (“The Lighthouse,” “The Witch”), there are lots of great battle scenes, dark atmosphere, and tension. Eggers is considered a “visionary director.” As Rotten Tomatoes describes this film: “A bloody revenge epic and breathtaking visual marvel, ‘The Northman’ finds filmmaker Robert Eggers expanding his scope without sacrificing any of his signature style.”

Known for his short films, at 2-hours-16-minutes, this is the director’s longest movie to date.

Eggers describes the film as “Andrei Rublev” meets “Conan the Barbarian” – that is, a period of “endless fighting” and an “invincible warrior.”

As a young Amleth declares: “I will avenge you, Father! I will save you, Mother! I will kill you, Fjölnir!”

But as Heimir the Fool wisely says, “Your fate is sealed and you cannot escape it!”

William Shakespeare delivered the same message.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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