CINEMA Troll Hunter
With the success of camcorder movies like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity, writer and director André Øvredal has his crack at the filming style with the mockumentary-style monster movie The Troll Hunter. Though the filming style is familiar, what Øvredal creates with it is something that audiences have never quite seen the like of before.
The film starts with a little bit of text – such is the nature of ‘found-footage’ films – telling the viewer that what they are about to view is the rough cut of 243 minutes of footage sent anonymously to a TV station. With this suitably mysterious preamble, the footage begins. Immediately, we’re introduced to a young, Norwegian, student film crew: Thomas, the on-screen reporter; Johanna, the sound recorder; and Kalle, the operator of the camera through which this story is viewed.
As they drive through the magnificent mountainous scenery, they mention that they’re there investigating a spate of illegal bear hunting in the area. As they record locations, tracks, dead bears and interview local hunters and officials, their target soon becomes the mysterious “man in the land-rover,” who carries an axe and makes it clear he’d rather not be filmed. Nevertheless, they persist, and after they track the suspected bear-poacher into the middle of the woods in the dead of night his identity, and his vocation, is revealed: Hans, Norway’s resident troll hunter.
Soon, realising that they now have the opportunity to make the documentary of the century, the students latch onto Hans and their documentary becomes all about him: the hardships he endures, his knowledge of the trolls of legend, and the people he makes angry by letting his work be filmed…
The trolls look so organic through the slightly reduced quality of the students’ camera.
A lot of what this film tries to achieve is about bringing trolls into the realm of fact. This is helped both through the consistently realistic acting of the characters (and the trolls), as well as through the fantastic special effects used to animate the creatures. The trolls look so organic through the slightly reduced quality of the students’ camera, and would seem far too fanciful and obviously fake if they appeared on screen using traditional cinematography. However, the first person view from the lens of a student’s camera provides a relatable link to this world, as do the students themselves.
Thomas, Johanna and Kale are clearly good friends (good enough to occasionally annoy each other at least), and their joy, their curiosity and their inquisitive journalist minds are part of what make the film so enjoyable. Although it’s worth mentioning that generally you don’t care about the film crew too much as characters, with the possible exception of Thomas, who has a certain cheeky charm and gets more screen time than the others. Though what they have stumbled upon whilst filming a simple student documentary is so large, they seem undaunted by the scale of it, even going so far as to taunt a hostile representative of the TSS (Troll Security Service) who is working so hard to cover up the trolls’ existence.
As a result of seeing this whole event through their eyes, as an outsider, there is a wonderful sense of looking into a world which is far bigger and more complicated than the audience experiences. The few little mysteries left at the end of the film add depth and realism to the story and to the characters.
A major theme in this film is modern heroes, which brings us to Hans. Without a doubt he could be described as the main reason this film is so successful in what it does. The troll hunter’s ‘working man’ attitude to such an important vocation works brilliantly well alongside the mockumentary style of the film to make this fantastical scenario seem plausible. He is the hero of the piece, yet he seems unimpressed by anything he sees or experiences, if not downright bored. It seems the responsibilities of his occupation, plus the awful working hours, has sapped his enthusiasm for the job. However, this jaded attitude is a huge part of what makes him such a fun character to watch, every life-threatening situation he finds himself in seems mundane and routine to him whilst striking the filmmakers as incredible. It’s hard not to become a little awed by Hans as he faces up to these beasts, and if you watch the film again – you’re likely to do so because of him.
The idea of making a dramatic, thrilling movie about trolls – the giant yet stupid creatures from Scandinavian folklore and children’s stories involving bridges – may seem questionable to some. Yet Øvredal, who has clearly put a lot of thought into the creation of these creatures, impressively brings Trolls into the scientific light of the 21st century whilst, at the same time, never betraying or bastardising the original lore. Those who liked the film Reign Of Fire for its transformation of dragons from creatures of myth and magic to animals of biology and evolution will thoroughly enjoy the description of trolls in this film.
The trolls’ biological natures are reflected strongly in their animalistic, predatory and above all brutal nature, and it becomes very easy to see these creatures as animals. However, unlike the aforementioned Reign Of Fire, The Troll Hunter sustains these scientific explanations whilst, at the same time, holding on to the mythical allure of the beasts. The trolls look, and sound, amazing. Their big-nosed appearance and their human-yet-inhuman grumbles as they plod through the dark forests searching for their prey are intimidating, but the film has all the endearing, indigenous charm of a folktale.
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