With its images of loincloth-clad warriors leaving carcasses in their wake, The Northman is a full-bodied affair.
The movie’s approach to bodies can be seen in one of its earliest moments, in which Heimir The Fool (Willem Dafoe) welcomes two visitors into his cave. His muscles illuminated by flames, Heimer drops bowls of broth and fish before his guests and tells them to eat. Although they are King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) and his young Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak), the royals obey the fool. They crawl toward the meal like beasts, snapping and growling, shoving their faces into the bowl to lap up the food.
Heimir\’s eyes grow brighter as he bends over to stare at his king. “You are dogs, who wish to become men,” he bellows. “Prove you’re not a dog.”
The king pauses for a moment and then answers with a mighty belch, much to Heimir’s delight. Turning to Amleth, Heimir repeats the command and receives a similar answer, this time in the form of a fart.
Although certainly an unusual way to acknowledge someone’s humanity, these bodily functions are very much in line with The Northman’s worldview. Directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse), who co-wrote the film with Icelandic author Sjón, The Northman retells the 12th-century Nordic legend of Amleth.