The Northman

Graphic violence, cruelty, animal cruelty, sexual material Rated on: 11 May 2022

The Northman

What’s it about?

A Viking prince (played by Alexander Skarsgård) seeks to avenge the murder of his father (Ethan Hawke), save his mother (Nicole Kidman) and regain his birthright. He meets Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) who vows to help him along the way.

The facts

  • Directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse)
  • Runtime: 136 mins
  • Dialogue is in English but some lines are spoken in Old Norse or Old Ukrainian with English subtitles
  • A new classification label was created for this film. It’s the first film in New Zealand to have the combination of graphic violence, cruelty, animal cruelty, and sexual material content warnings

Why did it get this rating?

Graphic violence

There are regular scenes of bloody and gory medieval violence including decapitations, and mutilation. These scenes will shock and disturb younger viewers but older teenagers and adults should be able to recognise them as representative of Viking life. Some examples include:

  • A man is killed during an ambush, at first speared through his body and then finally decapitated. The shot cuts away just as the blade strikes but his head is seen on the ground a moment later.
  • There are several battle scenes. A Slavic village is ransacked; axes and swords are used to brutalise and kill in a fast-paced sequence.

Cruelty

Slavery is depicted as a normal part of Viking life. Toxic masculinity and the desire for vengeance are key themes. There are also scenes where sexual abuse is threatened, and a historical rape is discussed.

Animal cruelty

Younger viewers are likely to be disturbed by depictions of harm to animals. The killing of animals (dogs and horses) is explained within the story but some viewers may consider the acts cruel. In one scene a young boy kills a horse during funeral rites (just below frame). The scene ends with a brief shot of the decapitated beast at his feet.

Sexual material

There are brief scenes involving sex, where buttocks and side-on breasts can be seen. These scenes are inexplicit and between consenting adults.

Horror

While horror is not part of the content warning, there are horror elements in the film related to the supernatural and surrealism of Viking mysticism. For example there is a psychic horror scene when guards are poisoned with ‘magic’ mushrooms. They hallucinate, become terrified and turn violently on themselves (and each other).

Further Information

A member of our Youth Advisory Panel attended the screening. They thought the graphic violence, gore, and harm to animals was particularly impactful.

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