Film review – The Hunter (2011)

24 October 2011
The Hunter: Martin (Willem Dafoe)

Martin (Willem Dafoe)

The location is the Tasmanian wilderness, the target is the last Tasmanian Tiger and the hunter is Martin (Willem Dafoe), a mercenary hired by a mysterious biotech company. Adapted from the 1999 novel by Julia Leigh, the writer/director of Sleeping Beauty, The Hunter is one part existential meditation on the male psyche and one part metaphor for the damage humanity has done to the natural world.

In the background of the film is the conflict between protesting environmentalists and loggers angry about losing their jobs. While the film does represent the loggers as intimidating, they are ultimately harmless compared to the ruthless corporate interests manipulating affairs from afar.

The Hunter works best when it resembles a Werner Herzog film, with Martin alone in the wild obsessively trying to complete his mission. Less successful are the scenes where Martin gradually becomes a surrogate father and husband to the family he stays with. A couple of jarring shifts in tone distract from what is otherwise a slow burning film about a man at war with himself and his prey.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 391, 2010

Thomas Caldwell, 2011

Bookmark and Share

Advertisements

MIFF 2010 Diary: Part 10

8 August 2010

This is my last diary entry for the Melbourne International Film Festival before seeing my final film for the festival Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which I will write up in full in the next few days once Cinema Autopsy has reverted back to its usual format. I had intended to see a couple more films today but after having had a rather good time at the Closing Night party last night that did not happen!

Lebanon

Lebanon

The Israeli film Lebanon is about a tank unit during the first few days of Israel’s war with Lebanon in 1982. The main point of interest is that the film is set entirely from within the tank, with the shots of the conflict outside being all via the tank’s gunsight. The incredible sound-design and claustrophobic cinematography  certainly convey the intensity of the experience for the young soldiers. The film also operates as a reasonably effective anti-war film, highlighting the death-by-remote aspect of modern warfare. However, some of the scenes depicting the brutality of war verge on the exploitive and diminish their power. Lebanon also relies a little too heavily on some very conventional war film clichés.

One of the most frustrating films I’ve seen at the festival is the Mexican film (with an Australian director) Leap Year. For at least two thirds of the film, its purpose seems to be to capture the everyday existence of an unremarkable life by making a film that is completely mundane – it’s not exactly riveting cinema. Towards the end of the film it becomes apparent that the subject of the film, a woman who lives alone in an apartment that we never see her leave, is actually very damaged and we get some confronting sadomasochistic daddy-issue sex but it’s still ultimately all a bit tedious.

Alamar

Alamar

On the other hand, Alamar demonstrates that films depicting everyday life with next to no narrative can be extraordinarily rewarding when those lives are actually of interest and completely removed from the audience’s frame of reference. I was more than happy to watch a Mayan man, living on a coral reef off the coast of Mexico, spend time with his son. The way of life presented in Alamar is a harmonious one based on living off the sea and the relationship between the father and his son  is very touching. This ethnographic docu/drama is a very simple film but completely engaging and life-affirming.

The Iranian film The Hunter is one of those films that I strongly believe would have worked as a 20 to 30 minute short film. It’s about an ex-prisoner who snaps after his wife is killed in a police shoot out and his daughter goes missing. Most of the film is an unnecessarily dull, detached and emotionally distant build up to the final more interesting aspects of the film. Even then, the protagonist becomes so completely unsympathetic that I simply did not care what happened to him.

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

The final 2010 MIFF film I’ll give a mini-review to is the closing night film Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. A high energy biopic of Ian Dury, it was certainly a fun film to close the festival with. However, I was overall a little bit frustrated that the film never really gave me a more substantial picture of who Dury was and his musical significance. The film briefly mentions that his style of music and performance was a sort of unacknowledged precursor to punk but I would have liked a lot more cultural context. The very Brechtian approach of having Dury narrate his life from a stage in an abandoned theatre strongly recalls Bronson (from MIFF last year) but it did not work nearly as effectively. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed Andy Serkis’s performance as Dury especially in the later stages of the film where it calmed down stylistically enough for Dury’s larger-than-life persona to speak for itself.

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

Bookmark and Share