Movie review: The Northman (2022)

Nicole Kidman did an excellent job of the Gertrude character in The Northman. She was complex, and showed many of the characteristics I talk of as appropriate for a queen in her own right, such as status, drawing focus, maturity, intelligence, aggression and violence, even to her own son, whose image of her was simplistic and fanciful. Her character’s shift from slave to queen was a good one, and merited the perceivable anger. We were not told her backstory as a slave, but she may very well have been captured royalty.

She was very much the standout performer of the film, closely followed by Olga, the Ophelia character, and Fjolnir, the Claudius character, both of whom were also complex and nuanced.

The production is of course entitled to make its own choices, but as someone acquainted with the myths I felt that there were a lot of opportunities lost. Gerutha as King’s daughter was left out, obviously. Denmark was cut, the kingdom at stake not even being Jutland, but  some small province, although it was taken over by a Norwegian king. The raiding of Russia could have taken into account the possibility that Amleth’s grandfather may well have been the Viking who settled and gave his name to Russia originally.

The script seemed more interested in a generalised version of the mythology, for the sake of portraying a violent world, than in the specifics of the Amleth myth.

A theme that was captured was Amleth’s simplicity. The name effectively means witless and can mean stupid as well as mad. The Amleth of the myth was actually cunning, and his witlessness was definitely faked. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet we are not so sure that he is faking, and he is certainly romantic and simple about his parents’ marriage.