Finally saw “the Northman”
Ok. So I finally saw “the Northman” tonight, and I have to say I was seriously, disappointingly, underwhelmed. I really really wanted to like it but I found myself irritated all the way through.
Here’s what I did like:
1. Pretty much all of the female characters. This is unusual for me. Usually, I find most female characters unnecessarily shoehorned into stories, or irritating, foolish, or weak, etc. etc. I really don’t like the way women are written most of the time but in this movie, I liked all of the major female characters and Bjork’s performance was amazing (I’m not a fan of Bjork either, so for me to say this is something).
2. the Odinic scenes — the rescue by the valkyrja, the Tree of life, etc. The valkyrja was amazing.
3. the male shaman (and I seriously want the drum beater he was using).
4. the foxes. 🙂
5. That the seeresss of Freyr must have seen what was really happening when the first bodies showed up, but she said nothing, giving Freyr’s tacit consent to the just vengeance.
6. Across the board the acting was excellent.
7. The rituals surrounding the funerals — I won’t say more as I don’t want to give spoilers.
8. Some of the fight choreography — not a lot of it, but every once in awhile, esp. with shield and sword, there was a really clever move.
9. At one point, Freyr is referred to as “the God of Erections” and frankly, that just delighted me. It’s a great by-name for Him. I know some Heathens have complained about this part of the movie, but it’s an accurate description of Freyr’s iconography and also His power.
10. the clothing seemed historically accurate and one thing that struck me was the dim interiors. I don’t think we really “get” how dark indoor rooms would have been before gas light and then electric lighting.
11. I’m assuming it was shot in Iceland. I’ve been there and it really is that beautiful. The scenery was stunning.
12. The way the Christians were referenced throughout the movie made me smile. It was first to last a properly Heathen world.
13. There was a female fighter, a shield maiden shown in one of the battles, in the aftermath, and that was really cool. There wasn’t more than one, which is far more accurate than showing a ton of them. We have historical references here and there to female fighters– women have always fought — but they were never the norm.
Things I really disliked:
1. the way berserkers were presented (were we dealing with berserker or ulfednar?).
2. Amleth was foolish and this is what irritated me the most. He fought stupidly. There was no cleverness save when he was working with Olga. Also, that he was a berserker, earlier established in the movie, doesn’t come into play in the later vengeance-taking battles. I didn’t think he was written as a smart character and that bothered me intensely and to my mind, goes against the saga this is based upon.
3. Skarsgard’s posture. Like dude, get some help for that neck issue. his head was constantly shoved so far forward it made my own neck hurt. stand up straight ffs. (I’m a former ballet dancer who had a ton of martial arts training too. Stand. Up. Straight). This drove me crazy throughout the film.
4. Everyone was dirty. The Scandinavians were very clean. There’s a (7th c. I think?) bit of Christian writing from England where the Christians are complaining that the Vikings get all the girls because they bathe weekly, perfume themselves, comb their hair and braid their beards.
5. The ritual at the beginning with the king and his son barking like dogs. WTF was that supposed to be?
Overall, it just left me cold. It does have the same pacing and surreal atmosphere as “The Witch,” (which I liked — it captures something of the paranoia and isolation of Puritan New England). Across the board the acting is exceptional. The reveal with Nicole Kidman’s character — wow. I’m not saying anything about it, but it was very, very well done. But other than that, I was just like…meh.