Which Robert Eggers film will stand the test of time?

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Robert Eggers is quickly becoming a cinematic sensation with the atmosphere of his immersive stories. With just three major films to his credit, Eggers rocketed to stardom thanks to his ingenious writing, innovative period pieces, and creative direction. Eggers was also set to direct a remake of the 1922 silent film, Nosferatus, but the project suffered several setbacks. Whether the remake happens soon or later, the environment Eggers creates in each of his films is sure to make it both memorable and successful.

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Eggers made his directorial debut in 2015 with the premiere of The witch, which was critically acclaimed. The film starred Anya Taylor-Joy in her film debut as the film’s lead. It would also mark the first collaboration between Eggers and Taylor-Joy. Eggers’ second film, Lighthouse would go on to elevate Eggers’ status with fans and film critics alike, thanks in particular to the performances granted by its protagonists, Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. More recently, Eggers directed and co-wrote The man from the north, which continued his cinematic success. While all three are highly regarded, only one has cemented Eggers’ legacy thus far.


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Eggers, like horror filmmaker Mike Flanagan, has a growing list of frequent collaborators. Among them are Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson and Katie Dickie, who appeared in both The witch and The man from the north. Dafoe is also a two-time Eggers collaborator, performing in both Lighthouse and The man from the north. Due to the subject matter covered by Eggers in each film, none of the performances, even from recurring collaborators, are similar. The witch takes audiences back to the 1630s in a supernatural horror film that explores witchcraft and the crippling implications it had for those associated and accused during that time. Lighthouse is set in slightly more recent times, taking the audience to the 1890s. As the title suggests, the story revolves around a lighthouse and its two workers whose mental stability evaporates over time. More recently, The man from the north travels to the first century AD, delivering an epic that stands apart from the horror projects Eggers typically crafts.


Elements of Eggers’ experience with horror films are evident throughout. The man from the north. Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) meets a witch (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) who produces the head of Heimir (Dafoe) and allows Amleth to speak to her. Amleth is guided to retrieve a sword in the possession of one of the Draugr (an undead skeleton). It’s not the dealings with the undead that create the gruesome atmosphere, but rather the tone these elements set for the characters. These scenes, as well as some of Eggers’ stylistic choices, including an early scene between Heimir, Amleth and King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke), all bear traces of The witch and That of the Lighthouse horrifying and supernatural aspects.


Even with the subtle facets of horror, The man from the north looks exactly like what it was created for: an epic. The untimely death of King Aurvandill and the abduction of Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) put Amleth to flight. Years later, he decides it’s time to return to fulfill his vow to avenge his father, save his mother, and kill his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang), who murdered his father. The story of Amleth’s heroic journey is full of expected heroic setbacks, which only fuel his quest for revenge. Through this, The man from the north immerses its audience in Viking culture. Using Scandinavian games, historical figures, sacred ceremonies, Valkyries, Odin, and symbolic crows, Eggers creates an environment where viewers feel like they’re strapped to Amleth’s back as he performs his lifelong quest.


This immersive quality is not new to Eggers’ work. Lighthouse drives its viewers as crazy as Ephriam Winslow (Pattinson) as he works as a villain under an equally odd Thomas Wake (Dafoe). Ephriam is haunted by strange events that ultimately foreshadow the fate he succumbs to at the end of the film. The man from the north does not use the same instances of symbolic prefiguration, but lets the traditional style of an epic and mythological story speak for itself.

Of Eggers’ three films, the cinematic scope of The man from the north best lends itself to cementing Eggers as a phenomenal filmmaker. The Northman competition for the role comes from Lighthouse, which is much more artistically designed than The man from the north. Its infuriating storyline and ambiguous ending create an unforgettable narrative that might still leave some viewers scratching their heads. The man from the north is a much more cohesive story, leaving its viewers with a definite ending. The fates of its characters are clear, and this solid ending to Amleth’s heroic journey is what the story demands.


That doesn’t mean that The witch doesn’t stand a chance of being a notable addition to Eggers’ filmography. Like his directorial debut, the film will always carry significant weight in his career. However, Eggers himself expressed his current frustration with the film, as he felt he was unable to get everything he imagined the film to be on screen. Those frustrations and the lessons he learned from making his first film paid off in the form of Lighthouse and The man from the northand the knowledge he continues to acquire bodes well for the projects Eggers will carry out in the future.

The witch and Lighthouse are now streaming on Amazon Prime. The man from the north now playing in theaters.

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