Anya Taylor-Joy enjoyed pushing her limits while filming Viking epic ‘The Northman’.
The 26-year-old actress plays the role of Olga in Robert Eggers’ historical epic and enjoyed filming in the cold and muddy Northern Ireland. Anya told ‘Variety’ at the film’s Los Angeles premiere: “I don’t really complain. There was one day where the mud was up to my knees and it was freezing. I got a ‘Can we drive please? ‘ squeaked and Robert was like, ‘Oh, Anya is asking if we can drive, we should drive.’ But we did it, it’s in the film and it looks amazing.”
Taylor-Joy says she has fond memories of filming despite the difficult conditions. The ‘Queen’s Gambit’ actress explained: “I don’t normally watch the behind-the-scenes films that I’ve done, but this film was sent to me by a friend and I just have every time you sees me, the biggest smile on my face. I just loved it. I loved being challenged like that.”
A wild Alexander Skarsgård goes wild in Robert Egger’s third feature film “The Northman”, a Viking saga as star-studded as it is bloody and brutal.
“The Northman” is a violent beast for film. A brutal concoction of Nordic mythology and Icelandic fairy tales with Shakespearean vibes. With film-Sweden’s foremost Viking in the lead role, Robert Eggers tells the story of sword blades that thirst for blood and of warriors whose fate is spelled revenge.
When we meet Amleth as a boy, he is overjoyed when his father, King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke), returns home after his battles. But soon he sees his father being executed by his brother, Fjölnir (Claes Bang). Amleth swears to avenge her father’s death, even though it will be a long time before he gets his chance.
Many years pass. Amleth has grown up. Under the new name Björnulv, he is part of a brutal Viking tribe that plunders villages and murders. The naive boy has turned into a bloodthirsty monster. But then Björk appears in a vision and so kindly reminds of his old promise. Amleth needs to find her father’s killer, nestle in his circle – and when the time is right, pursue her fate.
The question is whether there is still something human behind the hard facade? It’s up to beautiful Olga from Birkaskogen (Anya Taylor-Joy) to try to melt a heart of stone.
Alexander Skarsgård carries the film on his well-trained shoulders. He offers a both frightening and magnetic portrait of a man who has lost everything. The raw hatred in his eyes and the empty soul behind it are highlighted with a few lines, body language says everything we need to know about Amleth. Like a superhero ninja, he sneaks around at night and creates chaos in the enemy’s village, while we wait with excitement to see the morning sun shed light on his barbaric deeds.
When we first heard the reports of how a furious Skarsgård tore out the throats of his enemies with his teeth, I actually thought that the film would go even further in the brutalities. But there is no lack of graphic violence, and it is worth emphasizing that “The Northman” is not too picky. If you are sensitive to entrails and severed heads, a Viking saga is probably the wrong type of film.
For those of you who wonder, however, what a cross between “Gladiator” and “The Green Knight” might look like in Robert Egger’s hands, “The Northman” is quite right. The director behind the acclaimed, low-key independent thrillers “The Witch” and “The Lighthouse” is moving to a larger-scale production (at the same time more mainstream and broad than his previous ones) without losing his special character. Here is the symbolism, mythology and discomfort interspersed with pure fantasy elements. Black and white scenes depict visions in which witches or valkyries appear to guide our dubious hero.
With an extreme sense of detail, we are moved to the year 985, where a really very traditional and familiar revenge story is told – with an exciting voice and an imagery that enchants.
It is noticeable that Eggers is a perfectionist, both in terms of the era depicted and how he depicts it visually. Not a frame is wrong when he continues his rewarding collaboration with Oscar-nominated film photographer Jarin Blaschke. You are swept away by both the beautiful environmental images and the grotesque elements of violence. The music, sometimes just a soundscape of unpleasant rattling, wraps us early in an ominous mood.
The craftsmanship is impressive, as is his hand-picked ensemble. From big names like Nicole Kidman and Willem Dafoe to more unpredictable finds like Swedish Gustav Lindh (“Hearts Lady”) in an icy supporting role – everyone gets their chance to shine in some intense scene. It is noticeable that everyone involved gives 110 percent both in front of and behind the camera. “The Northman” is a luxurious production that creams a lot out of a guess but still quite modest budget.
Revenge movie is a tricky genre. “Problematic” someone says, because filmmakers make carte blanche wallow in disgusting murders, and yet we rejoice with satisfaction as soon as the hero slaughters one of his victims. They deserve all the harm, right? Something feels crazy about this. A justified carnage. The genre is not for everyone, and I hardly know if it is for me. A little too many revenge films that are cast in the same form make it partially watered down and uninteresting.
But I’m not here to play moral bitch or shout “toxic masculinity” after Skarsgård’s revenge odyssey. Especially since I actually like “The Northman”. In Robert Eggers’ hands, something magical happens. He is a director who impresses more and more with each new film, and makes sure to give the audience cold feet – out of discomfort or well-being? Preferably both. A naked sword fight on a volcano is the film’s most memorable scene, and you will definitely not see it in any other film this year.