Robert Eggers: ‘Modern Secular Society’ Makes It Harder to Be Creative

The director of “The Northman” lamented the “tiresome, lame, commercial culture” that we live in today.

In his first three films, Robert Eggers has consistently looked to the past to explore the darkest corners of the human experience, often focusing on the idea of obsession. So it’s hardly surprising that the director would have some interesting thoughts about how life as an artist has evolved over time.

In a new interview with Slash Film to promote the VOD release of “The Northman,” Eggers waxed poetic about the role of artists in the modern entertainment industry, and lamented that his own ego often gets in the way of his creative process.

“This sounds super uber-precious, but I think it’s hard to do this kind of creative work in a modern secular society because it becomes all about your ego and yourself,” Eggers said. “And I am envious — this is the horrible part — I’m envious of medieval craftsmen who are doing the work for God. And that becomes a way to … you get to be creative to celebrate something else. And also, you’re censoring yourself because it’s not about like me, me, me, me, me, me. So you say, ‘Oh, I got to rein that back because that’s not what this altar piece needs to be.’ Any worldview where everything around them is full of meaning is exciting to me, because we live in such a tiresome, lame, commercial culture now.”

Eggers is only three films into his career, but he has largely been able to avoid participating in the “tiresome, lame, commercial culture” that he disdains. All three of his feature outings have been period pieces that explore dark, cerebral subject matter. His first film, “The Witch,” was an acclaimed piece of folk horror set around a Puritan colony in New England in the 1630s. He followed that with “The Lighthouse,” a wild two hander set in a lighthouse in 1890s New England. While “The Northman” saw Eggers jump across the world to tell an Icelandic Viking tale, the auteur revealed he still wants to make one more period piece in New England.

“I definitely do need to do one more New England folktale,” he said. “I think that needs to be some kind of a trilogy. So at some point, I’m going to have to do one more of those.

“The Northman” is now available on VOD. 

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