Take Hamlet and transport him among the Vikings, dust off Shakespeare and mix it with the ancient Norse sagas, recruit an army of superstars (Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Alexander Skarsgård, Willem Dafoe, Ana Taylor-Joy, Claes Bang, Björk) and throw them into the Wild Iceland between fierce battles, gutting, beheading, betrayal, revenge, magic, hectoliters of blood and brutal violence. The result? The Northman, Universal superproduction (in cinemas on April 21), directed by Robert Eggers, 38 years old, dark look and sympathetic approach, a cult character among the youngest for having directed the magical horror The Witch and The Lighthouse with Robert Pattinson.
In The Northman, set in the 10th century after Christ, Hamlet (Skarsgård) is a young Viking prince who as a child witnesses his father (Hawke) murdered by his uncle (Bang) and grows up with the desire to take revenge. When he grows up he will discover the true nature of the queen mother (Kidman) and will have the help of the woman he loves (Taylor-Joy).
«It had never occurred to me to make a film about the Vikings – explains Eggers – I considered them violent, brutal, devoid of interest. Instead, after a trip to Iceland, I was struck by those landscapes and I began to immerse myself in the culture of the Nordic peoples, discovering a complex heritage in which art, religion, codes of honour, customs and justice merge.
And, even though my father teaches Shakespeare at the university, I didn’t know that Hamlet was probably inspired by the Viking epic, by its violence». And it is precisely the brutality, in addition to the sex scenes, that has meant that the film has been banned in America for the very young. «But I didn’t glorify violence», the director defends himself, «I only recounted the deeds of a male warrior from 10 centuries ago».
«However in the film, as in all of Norse mythology, women have a central role: they bridge the real and spiritual worlds, lead the game and control men. Sometimes they even manipulate them, just like Kidman’s queen does.” On violence, Alexander aligns with Eggers, a director chosen by him “for his extraordinary attention to detail: in fact, we wanted the film to be as authentic as possible, including brutality, but without that complacency that distinguishes many action-movies instead” . Hamlet? «It was a magnificent story to re-propose, also for its probable links with the Viking sagas. As a Swede, I could not miss this opportunity».