Robert Eggers And Jarin Blaschke Took An Ambitious Approach To The Northman's Action Scenes

To say that Robert Eggers has taken a unique approach with each of his first three feature films so far would probably be an understatement. His impressive debut, 2015's "The Witch," zeroed in on a specific colonial settlement and left us with a supernatural horror story (and a few choice memes from a certain scene-stealing goat!) that digs underneath the skin to truly unsettle viewers. His follow-up, the Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe-starring "The Lighthouse," opted for an almost square 1.19:1 aspect ratio and black-and-white cinematography to create a suffocating atmosphere that reflected the claustrophobic conditions of two suspicious men stuck on a tiny spit of land for far too long. With "The Northman," Eggers is promising to up the ante in terms of scope and scale, to a degree we've never seen from the talented filmmaker to this point in his career.

The premise of a Viking warrior setting out on a quest for vengeance is compelling enough on its own, but the mythology-heavy epic has even more going for it than just what's on the surface. The ambition of the budget (which may make things challenging in terms of box office receipts) and the sheer dedication to period detail — to the point of putting the actors through the wringer! — might not even remain the most eye-catching aspects of "The Northman," however. The particular way that Eggers and his longtime cinematographer Jarin Blaschke shot the action sequences will likely stand out the most among observant viewers.

'The camera is always moving'

"The Northman" will mark the third collaboration between Robert Eggers and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, which means the two have built up a shared language and a common vision throughout their previous movies together. Their latest project involves far more traditional action than "The Witch" or "The Lighthouse," of course, but that doesn't mean that "The Northman" differs from their usual approach to storytelling in general. 

In a wide-ranging interview with IndieWire, Eggers was asked about what influenced him to shoot the various action sequences of "The Northman" in the way that he did: meaning, with the use of just one camera and avoiding the typically standard practice of doing pickup shots after principal photography has concluded. In Eggers own words, he explained how he arrived to this method with "The Northman":

"This is just an extension of the work that [cinematographer] Jarin [Blaschke] and I have been doing on our last two films. In a movie that's bigger and has a normal type of narrative, we need to keep things moving, so for the most part, the camera is always moving. We're trying to propel the story and keep people totally immersed in the world. That's the main creative reason."

It's interesting to see the director mention that this is nothing more than a natural progression of his and Blaschke's previous work. Generally speaking, viewers don't tend to look at the work of cinematographers as synonymous with the kind of growth that capital-letter Filmmakers go through with each of their movies, but that fact remains true for all sorts of various crew members who don't receive the same level of recognition. Movie fans (and those who cover movies) could stand to hear more directors openly talk about these sorts of close work relationships when it comes to the filmmaking process.