The Northman perfectly broke a historic epic screenwriting rule

The Northman sets up what looks like a classic fight scene only to subvert audience expectations with a stark reminder that Amleth isn’t a superhero.

Warning! Spoilers ahead for The man from the north.

A scene in The man from the north shatters a classic trope of historical epics, subverting audience expectations near the end of the film. Robert Eggers’ third truth-based feature, which depicts Scandinavian legend Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) exacting bloody vengeance on his traitorous uncle, feels more like a fantasy or horror film at times than a grounded portrayal of a real story of past centuries. However, compared to the independent success The green knightwhich was a trippy vision quest from start to finish, The man from the north ultimately contains surprisingly believable details that make its tone hard to pin down.

The best example of realistic events in The man from the north is the scene following Amleth’s revelation of his true intentions. After spending a painful time pretending to be a slave to gain the trust of his uncle, Fjölnir (Claes Bang), Amleth finally comes clean about his identity to save the life of his lover, Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy). , when Fjölnir realizes he has been betrayed from within. In the next scene, Amleth fights four of his uncle’s henchmen at once like the tough warrior he is – only to be immediately overpowered once Fjölnir’s minions rise and attack him again.

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Surprisingly, Amleth’s strength isn’t absurdly unrealistic in The man from the northneither are his uncle’s acolytes. Most historical epics, like Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, drop their almost superheroic main character on their attackers – who approach one by one – to show off their fighting prowess. It’s rare for this type of action movie to depict multiple goons swarming their attacker all together and punching him repeatedly until he stays down. But The man from the northThe brief fight scene is a stark reminder that, in real life, even the toughest fighter would struggle to fight many enemies at once.

Amleth Viking Berserker

Nor is this moment a humiliating defeat for Amleth. This allows him to let Olga escape while he distracts his uncle’s men, and it shows him avoiding a quick death by tormenting Fjölnir about the location of his dead son’s missing heart. Too often, the heroes of historical epics rely on sheer brute force alone to fend off dozens of opponents. The film’s dark subversion of this shot proves that even a hulking titan like The man from the northAmleth would have to use both brains and brawn to defeat his uncle, as even the strongest and bravest hero cannot defeat half a dozen attackers at once.

While Eggers aims for historical accuracy in much of his film, other moments delve into the mythical, romantic, and fantastical traditions of historical epic film. Still, Amleth’s third-act action scene with Fjölnir’s henchmen is a surprisingly realistic moment that unfolds The man from the north aside from other entries in the genre and proves that this particular historical epic isn’t interested in revisiting tired tropes.

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