On the occasion of the release of “The Northman”, an exciting new work by Robert Eggers, we met the filmmaker to talk about this ambitious project.
The Northmanwhat’s this?
With The Northman, Robert Eggers continues to show his interest in myths. This time, he highlights Nordic culture with a story of revenge sublimated by the staging of the director. A striking and important work in the current industry dominated by blockbusters without real personality for the most part. A great show controlled by a fascinating author and which could struggle to reach a large audience. With this in mind, we asked the filmmaker about the development of this project and his approach to Viking mythology.
How was the project born?
I wasn’t particularly interested in the Vikings at the base. And then I went to Iceland where the landscapes are incredibly inspiring. My wife has always been passionate about the Norse sagas and often advised me to read them. But it was only after this trip that I started to let myself be carried away by this culture and this mythology.
Shortly after, Alexander Skarsgard came to see me make a film of Vikings. It was falling after my trip to Iceland so it was perfect. I was thinking of doing something like this one day without having a precise idea. But Alex’s sudden proposal made that desire real. Because who better than him to carry a film of Vikings?
Wasn’t it difficult to sell such a project for tens of millions of dollars?
It was quite incredible that I was allowed to make this film with a big budget. I have been very lucky. It wasn’t that hard to get the green light from production. Still, it’s not meant to be a franchise. But we feel that at the moment there is a desire from the public around the Viking universe. So it was worth taking the risk.
For The Northmanyou find in particular Anya Taylor Joy, already directed in The Witch.
I think Anya and both of us have improved in our areas since our first collaboration. We have more experience. But the good thing about collaborating with someone again, which by the way is also the case with members of the production and design team, is that we are already on the same length waves and we trust each other. It saves time.
Visually, the film is impressive.
It was hard to find the visual style at first. Usually, I take as a basis the art of the time. But Viking art is highly stylized and devoid of an abstract pictorial atmosphere. Again, these are the elements of nature, fire, mud, and rain, which carry within them the atmosphere. Then I was inspired by the simplicity and elegance of poetry in visual art. So we decided that the staging should have something rigid, but also elegant.
You have a realistic approach while including supernatural elements.
In the Viking spirit and culture, the supernatural world corresponds to reality. There are no Viking’s atheists for example. All the gods and mythology around must therefore be real in the film. What I also find great about the sagas is how modern they are. The characters are not white or black, there are gray areas. In terms of human psychology, this is quite surprising. For me, this is the most interesting.
This approach has a direct impact on the end and our feelings.
Yes. If you’re all in the spirit of Amlet, from his point of view and about his culture, it’s a happy ending. Now for me, there is not a winner in a revenge film.
The Northman hits theaters on May 11, 2022.