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“When we started working together, he hadn’t done The Lighthouse,” Skarsgård explains. “He had just released The Witch, and I was quite fascinated by how he incorporated the supernatural into the story and how the characters don’t react to it the way a modern day audience would. That got me really excited, because Rob could capture that in a Viking setting with Viking characters, and their relationship to the spiritual world and gods.”
Indeed, one of the great strengths in all three of Eggers’ films is how they immerse viewers in not only an authenticity of production design, but also the psychology of their cultures. Unlike most modern historical dramas, Eggers does not seek to insert a 21st century worldview into his characters; rather he trusts modern audiences to draw their own conclusions by witnessing archaic and even alien thought processes from previous generations. It gets to what Skarsgård, who is also a producer on The Northman, always wanted for his own Viking movie.
Says the actor, “I was fascinated by the distinction between the natural and the supernatural, and how there was no distinction for the Vikings like there is for us. I was really fascinated by that aspect, and the opportunity to try to portray that to an audience in 2022, who will view it like a fantasy, but to the characters living it, experiencing it, it’s 100 percent real.”
The desire for authenticity also walked hand-in-hand with a need to get away from how Viking culture has been romanticized in media and co-opted by fringe political movements often filled with racial prejudices. This can range from The Northman escaping from the biker punk aesthetic associated with Vikings in mass media thanks to projects like the History Channel’s Vikings TV series and the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla video game, to how the film also depicts the violence and cruelty of that culture.
Take the aforementioned raiding sequence that is set in an Eastern European village. In the film, after sailing within striking range of this Slavic community, Amleth and many of his fellow warriors spend the evening taking hallucinogens to hype themselves into a psychedelic berserker rage—the literal origin for the word “berserk”—and attack the next day devoid of armor or clothes beyond bear and wolf skins on their backs (with each warrior believing he has spiritually shifted shape into the animal of his choice).
They then massacre all the men in the town in a stunning long-take that precedes the same characters indulging the spoils of war: women and children, slaves and victims.
Source: Den of Geek