I’m an 80s kid and for us Highlander is one of the key films of our childhoods. I saw it numerous times during my teens, but never at a theatre – until now. And I think it might be decades since I last saw it on a VHS.
But fear not, my thirteen-year-old self was right as usual: Highlander is an impressionistic masterpiece that epitomises many of the best (and sure, some of the worst) about 80s cinema. Right away at the start there are those blood-red title cards, the editing between past and future is masterfully done and it’s one of the very best example of that very 80s kind of musical where the band that composes the music is almost a character, even if it‘s never shown. Freddie Mercury sings melancholy ballads for our romantic heroes and aggressive rock songs for the villain, for whom he also almost screams his way through “New York, New York.”
There is of course on criticism of the film that pops up again and again. The fact that a Frenchman is playing a Scot and a Scot is playing a Spaniard – or an Egyptian, his origin story changes by the day. But that’s actually perfect casting, since those are not ordinary mortals and hence don’t speak like them. Those are men who have lived through centuries and gone and lived in many places, with many accents – and probably been out of place in all of them. Connery is charming as always and Clancy Brown much better than I remembered as the epic baddie Kurgan, steeped in evil and with one of film history’s most extreme evil laughter. But Lambert also has a way with a chuckle. The Lambert chuckle is very specific, a smirk and two low chuckles – and in some way incredibly calming. You just know everything is going to be OK, the world’s not going to end just yet, not with that chuckle around.
Oh, and I’m reminded Connor McLeod was born in 1518. Which means he just turned 500 this year, making the screening one glorious birthday party.
Text: Ásgeir H Ingólfsson