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 We have historical references here and there to female fighters– women have always fought — but they were never the norm.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. 

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on May 14, 2022, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. A part of me wonders if this movie would have the glowing praise it’s getting from a lot of Heathens if there were more movies like this. I think this movie will one day be in the “It was great because of the time it came out” category

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    • ganglerisgrove

      I don’t know. I just know I’d rather watch “13th Warrior” any time than “the Northman” again, and there were a lot more problems with the former objectively.

      I will share this: there’s a scene where a valkyrja saves Amleth and all I could think was “bitch” (meaning Amleth) “that valkyrja had better things to do. fight smarter.”

      Liked by 3 people

  2. ganglerisgrove

    HAH! There’s a scene where Kidman is tablet weaving. Her set up is perfect but when I saw it, I said, she’s not actually weaving. Sure enough: watched a historian critique the movie (costumes are excellent minus the leather underwear) and she was NOT doing anything but moving her hands. come on. if Skarsgard can spend months getting into shape, and these guys can learn to fight, Kidman could have spent a couple of hours learning how to tablet weave.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma (Emmy Lou) Hawkins

    I got to the end and thought: “but what is the point? IS there a point?” Other than seeing gorgeous scenery and historic Iceland recreated.

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    • ganglerisgrove

      well, it’s a story of sacral vengeance and that’s cool. and the historical costuming was awesome. and…Bjork’s costume and that shaman’s drum beater was great but otherwise, it was as boring as every other saga I’ve ever read and worse than some.

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  4. Re: Freyr, I mean his statues are clearly ithyphallic…

    Re: cleanliness, I think the source you are thinking of came from John of Wallingford? I personally always remember the year 907 contract that the Byzantium Empire had to give access to the baths as often as the Rus wanted. Plus some verse in Havamal about being washed, and similarly in Regnismal. Heck Snorri spent hours in the bath daily, and we can visit his bath today. 😛

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    • ganglerisgrove

      Plus, Scandinavians had a great deal of contact with the Saami, with their sauna culture.

      I can’t remember the source. I really need to look it up. lol

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ganglerisgrove

    there are also lovely hot springs. Ancient Romans had heated floors and indoor plumbing. Doesn’t surprise me to find innovations with the Scandinavians a thousand years later too.

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  6. It’s funny, I agree with most of your list on both sides, and yet I had a much more positive reaction overall to the movie. I guess to me, those pros far outweigh the cons in terms of what I was looking to get out of the experience. Especially the depictions of shamanism and oracles.

    By the way, it was largely filmed in Northern Ireland, only a little in Iceland.

    My favorite line though was that bit where one of them is talking about Christians and kind of incredulously says “they worship a corpse nailed to a tree!” LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • ganglerisgrove

      To be fair, I had THE worst sciatica flare over the weekend when I watched it so I was in terrible pain and it’s likely I’d have been bitching about anything I watched. I’m not entirely sure that my pain levels didn’t detract from my viewing pleasure. I LOVED that line, btw. (corpse nailed to a tree.). They weren’t wrong.

      I haven’t been to Ireland. It’s on my list. it’s the one place of all my ancestral places that I haven’t gotten to visit. yet.

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      • Yeah, pain definitely affects one’s perceptions. Whereas I was in a fortunate position of watching it during a week of altered states and fun. Also, going into it I had the distinct feeling I should purchase a glass of wine, wait to drink it until the film began, and then toast – and what do you know, the very first thing in the movie is calling on Odin. So I was able to do a little religion right there in the theatre which was nice.

        I had never felt particularly drawn to Ireland (and no ancestry there) but it seems like every time I see a movie and think “that’s gorgeous, where was that filmed?” the answer is Ireland.

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