THE TROLL HUNTER
While many of my media colleagues lined-up elbow-to-elbow to catch a glimpse of Cate Blanchett, star of Hanna, the opening night film of the 2011 Sydney Film Festival, I was quite content to be queueing front-to-back inside Event Cinemas. As much as I adore Cate, and look forward to seeing Hanna (it opens in Australian cinemas July 28), I was happy to be indoors (eventually) and not braving the Arctic conditions which greeted us on Day 1 of SFF 2011. Brrrrr.
Coincidentally, my first film of this year's Festival was one from a similarly cold climate: Norway. Andre Ovredal's The Troll Hunter is one of those 'found footage' fake documentaries in the vein of The Blair Witch Project. You know, the kind with no-name actors and the shaky-cam cinematography which induces minor strokes in David Stratton?
But our three intrepid film students - Thomas, Johanna and Kalle - from Volda College aren't hunting ghosts but trolls. Well, initially, they set-out A Current Affair-style to grab an interview with a notorious bear poacher. But the no-nonsense Hans (Otto Jespersen) has bigger fish-eaters to fry: he's Norway's one and only troll hunter, secretly commissioned to decommission rogue trolls who happen to break free from their designated territories, uprooting trees and chomping on livestock (and the occasional German backpacker) in the process; bear attacks are just a ruse the government uses to keep the public in the dark.
But Hans has had enough of bureaucracy and wants the secret lives of trolls exposed, agreeing to let the youthful trio tag along on his nightly patrols. So ensues a lot of jump cut editing (we're told in the opening credits the found footage has been undoctored), shaky sound and even shakier camera work (are you okay, Stratts?) due to all the running the foursome do.
That's a result of their encounters with trolls which Ovredal bravely, but smartly, dares to feature early and often in The Troll Hunter. The CGI (or are they people in costume?) trolls are effectively rendered, resembling larger versions of the monsters from the world of Jim Henson's Muppets or Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are, albeit it with a serious case bad breeding. They're not necessarily the creatures of your nightmares (closely resembling trolls from fairy tales, the laws of which the film simultaneously cheekily adheres to and subverts) but the film has its moments of tension nonetheless.
It's also pretty funny, in a dry, Nordic kind of way. And it's political and environmental (global warming is referenced on radio news, perhaps a cause of troll unrest?), though those elements of the film are as pertinent as you want them to be.
The Troll Hunter wasn't on my list of 'must-sees' for the 2011 Sydney Film Festival but I'm glad I caught it. Ovredal has produced a clever, comic and convincing film (just his second, and first in a decade) and provided an excellent kick-start to 12 days of cinemania. Troll, I mean, roll on.