In an act of vengeance, a young man randomly kills two police officers. He escapes to the forest, where he is arrested by two other officers. The three men are surrounded by trees, the ...
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In an act of vengeance, a young man randomly kills two police officers. He escapes to the forest, where he is arrested by two other officers. The three men are surrounded by trees, the woods. They are lost in a maze, a desolate landscape, where the boundaries between the hunter and the hunted are difficult to perceive.Written by
It's as minimalist as a single-colour canvas, or simply boring
I viewed The Hunter at TIFF, entering the theatre without having researched anything about the film. The only thing I knew was that it was an Iranian film. Essentially, I went in with an open mind and zero expectations, yet I still came out fairly disappointed.
The film kicks off full of energy with a still referencing tense relations enjoyed between Iran and America since 1979. We meet a lower-class average man named Ali who sports the same sullen face from beginning to end. Is he angry simply because his employment as a watchman doesn't afford him much time to see his family, or is there a deeper plot about his time spent in prison? We never find out. Why did he go to prison? We never find out.
Occasionally, Ali steals away from the city (where he's bombarded with political propaganda, which again is not touched upon in any detail) to a quiet area in the country he knows very well; a hunter and his trusty rifle alone in the wilderness. Ali stalks an unknown prey, and fires off a couple shots (probably the most exciting part of the film, as the gunshots are devastatingly loud). What is he hunting? We never find out. Does he actually kill anything, or bring it back home? We never find out. He must be the most incompetent hunter in the world, or he's letting off some steam. We never find out - especially given that he maintains the same sullen face upon returning home.
Even when his family dies as a result of a shootout between the police and "insurgents", Ali oddly expresses little, if any, reaction. Was his wife secretly an "insurgent" (and did he know?) or was she merely caught in the crossfire, as the police told him? We never find out. Why does he express zero emotion at the sight of his dead child's body? We never find out.
Eventually, with nothing to lose, he finally expresses some talent in hunting by plucking off two police officers driving down the highway. With the authorities chasing after him, you'd expect some feelings of anxiety or excitement, but it's too strewn out to be much enjoyed. Worse, a second plot that develops about the corruption of the two police officers who apprehend Ali drags out long enough for me to check my watch.
The Hunter is a film that appears constantly to reach for deeper themes, deeper emotion, and a deeper plot, but always falls short. Any promising element succumbs to extreme minimalism, which, ironically, destroys the element of art in film making by trying to be so artistic. It's not ambiguous, it's vague. It's not subtle, it's empty. And it's not patient, it's boring.
Such minimalism causes the viewer to imagine plot development, and it is the source of major frustration. It's like imagining vivid additions to a canvas painted in a single colour, but why are we making stuff up in our minds when the art piece should be guiding us along to the story? There is so much rich substance the director, Rafi Pitts (who stars as Ali), could have incorporated even slightly into the plot - namely Ali's past and his (and his family's) involvement with national politics. A quick and simple explanation that he served time for involvement in "insurgent" activities, for example, would have connected beautifully to his murder of two authorities from the state.
In my opinion, it wouldn't have taken much for Rafi Pitts to incorporate greater elements of political tension or character development (and background), as it's obvious there is a lot of rich substance to be drawn. Ultimately, The Hunter is a draft sketch of a screenplay prematurely put to the camera.
I'm sure an ivory tower film critic somewhere would praise The Hunter for its deep questions, but the reality is that the only question most will have after viewing the film is, "What the hell actually happened in that hour and a half?" And in case I entirely wrong about The Hunter, and I am actually too blind to notice a deeper connotation in the film, I award it 1 star out of 10.
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