This film I had followed closely during production as the premise intrigued me. As a history major at The Ohio State University, I always enjoy anything history related. This is based on the legend of Amleth which I’ll be honest I knew nothing about. Think the Vikings and their folklores/urban legends.
This also reminds me of the Shakespearean story of Hamlet. Another point to note is the director and the film lead Anya Taylor-Joy as Olga. If you are familiar with Robert Eggers he is relatively new to directing feature films but has had great success. A film called The Witch was released in 2015 and starred Taylor-Joy as the lead. I saw this film and wasn’t as enthused as others. You will also know the male lead in this film Alexander Skarsgård from True Blood. Ok. So would this film be lackluster as I felt The Witch was or an improvement since I enjoy the topic.
Onto the film.
We open in AD 895. King Aurvandill War-Raven (Hawke) returns from battles and immediately Queen Gudrún (Kidman) comes to him. She has missed him, but he is dismissive. He speaks that he desires to die in battle and then wants to feast with his men. His son Amleth comes to him and things then get a little weird. They essentially have a ritual together where Amleth becomes a man. The visuals are fascinating to see but I was initially caught off guard. I will say
Ethan Hawke is fantastic in this role. We then move on and see an ambush the next day. King Aurvandill War-Raven (Hawke) is ambushed by wait for it….his BROTHER Fjölnir the Brotherless (Bang.) The young Amleth scurries off and hides away. He then sees his mother taken captive and vows to get revenge for his family.
We then cut to years later and Amleth (Skarsgård) has grown up to become a fearsome warrior. He has made a home with a band of Vikings and it seems he is biding his time to get his revenge. Eventually, he leaves this group as he has visions of his destiny come to fruition. He then poses as slave to head to Iceland to take on his uncle and save his mother.
The film flows well in the beginnings and when Amleth (Skarsgård) starts his odyssey for revenge. The cinematography is gorgeous to look at and the film was clearly filmed on location. However, the story starts to falter when Amleth gets to Iceland. He is biding his time, and finds love of course in the wonderful Olga (Taylor-Joy) but a film that started so strong felt a touch boring. I enjoyed the battles in the beginning of the film but then we were waiting for more. Biding our time in the darkness as our hero was.
This film could have been a masterpiece for me but towards the end (although it is touching on the Scandinavian legend) gets a little far out there. Even for me! We see visions from soothsayers and it is visually appealing but took me out of the film and caused some confusion. The cast is perfect though. There are twists and turns and I will hoping for positive outcomes for most and justice for the bad. If you’re a fan of “Medieval” times and stories akin to King Arthur watch this film. I feel this is a lesser version of Gladiator yet more visually appealing. The runtime is long and I found myself becoming distracted a few times, but overall I had fun and enjoyed it even though it left me wanting more. Yes I watched Gladiator when I got home! 3 stars out of 5