I saw this impressive early silent film in October 2006 at the Cinema Muto festival in Sacile, Italy. Those who are unfamiliar with Scandinavian languages may find the title 'Løvejagten' confusing. 'Løve' has nothing to do with 'love': it's the Danish word for 'lion'. The film's title translates as 'Lion Hunters'.
IMDb's credits for this film are incorrect. Axel Sørensen should not be in the cast list; he is this film's photographer. Someone who *should* be in the cast list is William Thomsen, who plays the black African tracker for the white lion-hunters. I was intrigued that the African character is depicted with very little racial stereotyping or condescension.
'Løvejagten' has the general feel of a wildlife documentary, and is done so well that the fakery is hard to spot. The action of the film is as follows: two white hunters and their native tracker progress through the jungle. They observe various fauna: ostriches, a hippopotamus, a zebra. (The fakery was obvious for me here, as zebras in the wild always remain with the herd, unless one diseased zebra is outcast: it's only ever in zoos and wildlife preserves that one sees an isolated zebra.) The hunters make camp for the night, but are awakened by a lion killing a young goat. (Which would be unlikely to exist in the wild.) The lion then kills the hunters' horse, but then the hunters shoot the lion. One hunter poses beside the dead lion, smoking a cigarette. They shoot another lion, then skin both of them and display their pelts for the camera. The hunters enjoy another smoko, and offer a cigarette to the black man too. (Just what the African people need: lung cancer!)
This film consists entirely of staged enactments, made more realistic by the fact that the shooting and skinning of the lions is genuine. The 'jungle' sequences were actually filmed in a forest north of Copenhagen. The wildlife sequences (bar the lions) were filmed in the Copenhagen Zoo. This explains a couple of askew camera angles, as photographer Sørensen had to avoid showing any of the fences or barriers separating the various species.
The lion sequences were filmed on Elleore, a small island off the Danish coast. This was done partly so as to avoid bringing the lions into proximity of innocent by-standers, but the film-makers' prime motive appears to have been a desire to escape the scrutiny of animal-rights activists (yes, they were out and about even then!) who had heard about this film in advance and were determined to stop its production. Even the Danish minister of justice attempted to stop it.
I'm extremely impressed with 'Løvejagten' as an early example of movie-makers' ability to fake real events credibly. I was tempted to give my review of this film some sarky title such as 'I Bwana Go Home' or 'Life with the Lions' ... but in fact this is an excellent enactment which earns my rating of 9 out of 10. Veldt done!
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