The Northlander (2016)


Canada. 2016.


Director/Screenplay/Producer – Benjamin Ross Hayden, Photography – Dan Dumouchel, Music – Michalis Andronikou, Makeup Effects – Lisa Belyea, Special Prosthetics – Melissa Meretsky, Production Design – Shannon Joel Chappell. Production Company – Northern Banner/Manifold Pictures/Telefilm Canada/Talent Fund


Corey Sevier (Cygnus), Roseanne Supernault (Mira), Julian Black Antelope (Torik), Michelle Thrush (Nova), Nathaniel Arcand (Shappa), Jerome Paton (Elias)


2931, many years after civilisation has collapsed. Cygnus is the tribe’s hunter in the village of Last Arc. Following a prophecy from the tribe’s seer, he sets out on a quest. He is soon captured by the rival tribe of the warlike Heretics whose leader Torik has been waiting to have Cygnus his prisoner for a long time. Cygnus manages to make an escape with the Heretic girl Mira. The two of them fall into an underground realm where they find remnants of the civilisation that went before. Torik comes in pursuit, seeking to settle a vendetta.

The Northlander was a directorial debut for Benjamin Ross Hayden, a Canadian of the Metis tribe (descended from a mix of First Nation Indians and French). The film received wide release throughout Canada following its debut at the Montreal Film Festival.

The Northlander is a post-holocaust film. However, Benjamin Ross Hayden is not interested following in the footsteps of the post-apocalyptic action film of Mad Max 2 (1981) or the grim battle for survival we had in The Road (2009). Rather we are introduced to survivors living in the wilderness where Hayden has cast a number of First Nations people and their culture seems to have become along the lines of an Indian tribe pre-European contact. You get the impression that the post-apocalyptic setting is of not much interest to Hayden Ross – you could have stripped it from the film and simply made a regular historical tribal drama. Much of the film is taken up between Corey Sevier who is pursued by rival tribe leader Julian Black Antelope who seeks to settle a personal vendetta.

During the middle of the film, Corey Sevier and Roseanne Supernault fall down into the ruins of civilisation and discover some artifacts. You expected here that the film would take on something of Glen and Randa (1971), which concerned two innocent lovers as they went on a quest and tried to make sense of the artifacts of the fallen civilisation that they encountered along the way or, the scene I kept being reminded of, where Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux find the history discs in The Time Machine (1960).

This gave me hope for The Northlander but Benjamin Ross Hayden lacks any interest in exploring the ruins of civilisation and abruptly abandons the scene just as Corey Sevier and Roseanne Supernault uncover historical recordings. He fails to make a very interesting film. The great climactic battle comes down to no more than a fight between two brothers and is over in little time with Ross Hayden having made little effort to choreograph the fight. Not to mention the dialogue is awfully pretentious: what are you meant to make of lines like “I fear betrayal will open the door to your heart’s desire.” Or the conversation with Nathaniel Arcand as Corey Sevier sets out “Where would the answer be if it had to be somewhere?” “Wherever it is” … “When you think of population or what used to be present, it is pretty simple to look at what isn’t and what is.”

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