In the past decade, American filmmaker Robert Eggers has worked to reinvent the horror genre twice, first with the release of The Witch in 2015, then again with The Lighthouse in 2019. With his own brand of gritty, grubby moviemaking, Eggers has carved himself an idiosyncratic path through the landscape of modern independent cinema, bringing a fog of compelling darkness over contemporary horror.
With a particular fondness for tales of intricate folk horror, fans of the director have latched onto his literary style that seems to have one foot in the past and another firmly in contemporary filmmaking. Having built such a following, Eggers is due to thrill audiences once more with his 2022 film The Northman, a semi-fantastical tale following a young Viking prince who sets about on a quest to avenge his father’s murder.
Penned by himself and the famous Icelandic screenwriter of Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, Sjón, the brand new film stars the likes of Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Anya Taylor-Joy. Lined up to be one of the finest films of 2022, fans are hoping Eggers’ new film can reach the heights of The Witch and The Lighthouse that infused horror with a new sense of sophistication.
In reinventing modern horror, Eggers has long been inspired by the history of the genre, learning from the masters such as Wes Craven, John Carpenter, F. W. Murnau, Jack Clayton and Tobe Hooper. Listing some of his favourite films of all time in an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Eggers pointed to the likes of dramas such as Shadows Of Our Forgotten Ancestors and Andrei Rublev, as well as iconic classics like Fanny and Alexander and Mary Poppins, before noting Nosferatu as his favourite horror film of all time.
Crucially, Eggers favours the original Murnau version from 1922 rather than the 1979 version by Werner Herzog, noting the former filmmaker as “neck with Bergman as my favourite director”. Waxing lyrical about the original director, Eggers adds: “He’s responsible for some of the best images in cinema of all time, from Nosferatu to Faust to Sunset. His work was so influential that filmmakers generations later can be referencing Murnau without knowing it”.
As a huge admirer of Murnau’s lofty ambitions and the film’s own genre innovations, Eggers goes on to note, “There are horror movies before it, obviously — Nosferatu invents horror movies. The editing of the parallel story together in some ways invents cinema”. This isn’t the only publication the director has discussed his love for the film with either, telling Shudder that the film is “one of the greatest and most haunting films ever made”.
Particularly fond of the grimy monochrome art style the film adopts, largely due to the period of the film’s production, Eggers has found much inspiration from within the gothic tale of F. W. Murnau’s classic film that celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2022.