This post contains spoilers for The Norwegian.
Nicole Kidman spends most of his time in The Norwegian stalker around the edges of history. She plays Queen Gudrún in the Viking epic, King Aurvandil War-Raven’s steely wife (Ethan Hawke), whose return from an almost fatal battle abroad sets the story in motion. Gudrún begins the film resignedly to sit faithfully by his side, look after their son and quietly stand for the dinner festivities. It does not take long before one wonders why a stage thief like Kidman was cast in such a seemingly small, quiet role. That question remains unanswered until a twisted monologue scene in the film’s third act, one that finally shows all of Kidman’s wild instincts.
However, it takes a while to get there. After the king has been killed by his brother Fjölnir, the young prince Amleth (played as a child by Oscar Novak and as an adult of Alexander Skarsgård) Fjölnir must be away from home. As he does so, he gets one last glimpse of his mother and sees her cry over the violent betrayal. (Or so he thinks!) For the rest of the film, his mantra is simple: “Revenge Dad. Red mother. Kill Fjölnir. “His mother, Amleth imagines, has suffered by Fjölnir’s side, forced to marry the man who killed her beloved husband.
More than a decade later, after Amleth has become a great Viking warrior, he comes to the farmland that Fjölnir and Gudrún preside over, pretending to be a slave-bound prisoner. Although his mother seems to have a fairly peaceful life as Fjölnir’s wife, he sets his plan in motion, massacres Fjölnir’s men and reveals his true identity to his mother in her home.
That is when Gudrún tells her estranged son the truth: she has never loved his father. In fact, she was happy when he died, and wanted Fjölnir to kill Amleth as well. Her match with Aurvandil was evil, she says, telling him that she was given to the king as a slave and that Amleth was a product of rape. “Your father endured me because I gave birth to a son,” she tells him.
It is at this point that Kidman finally comes to a standstill and eats up the camera with his gruesome revelations. Until this time, Gudrún lives mostly as a memorial to Amleths, a royal object without her own inner life. This scene reverses all of this and reveals how naive Amleth’s projections have been. She thrives! Wandering around the village with its new beauty! Rebuilds his life and cares for his new son! She is adamant as she retells all this to Amleth and cuts him down to size with her words. So, after revealing her truth, Gudrún takes things in an oedipal direction and kisses her alienated son. It’s all a distraction so she can try to kill Amleth – but she fails and he quickly drives a sword through her heart.
Kidman excels at this kind of tempered mania, which skillfully elevates arthouse dramas by tackling complicated characters filled with dark thoughts – the clever, smiling celebrity in to die for; the bored swan of Wide eyes Shut; the freaky Southern Belle of The Paperboy; the disturbed mother entered The killing of a sacred deer. IN The Norwegian, her screen time is far less than what the audience might have expected to go in, though it’s probably designed. Where would the surprise be if we could constantly sense that Gudrún did not want to be saved? This scene provides an explanation for Kidman’s cast, benefiting from her talent and her penchant for creating a series of off-track revelations.
It’s also one of the few scenes in The Norwegian without cinematic bells and whistles, and appreciates the craft of acting above all else. In a film full of physically strenuous endeavors, including a highly choreographed raid scene and a nude battle scene, this scene lets Kidman himself deliver the chaos. For Eggers, it was a dreamy anchor in the middle of a heavy shooting. “It was really so enjoyable to get to do some fine stage work instead of an action sequence, damn it,” he said recently. Vanity Fair, praises Kidman’s performance. “It’s one of those scenes I’m really proud of.”
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