Monday, November 21, 2011

The Wild Hunt

Lauded as best debut at Toronto, and winner of the audience award at Slamdance, this is an English-language Quebecois production that does away with the frequently parochial quirkiness of the region’s cinema, for an idiosyncratic outsider theme familiar to oddballs everywhere, in an attempt to conjure the resonance of Norse myth through the weekend games of a large group of live medieval role-players.

Slobby Erik (Ricky Mabe) is pissed that his girlfriend Lynne (Kaniehtiio Horn) disappears to the woods on the weekends to cavort with berserkers, knights and elves, and heads off to bring her back. The problem is that, as the Viking princess, she’s rather important to their game and currently a prisoner of the sinister Shaman (Trevor Hayes) and his crew. Aided by his rather-too-into-it brother Bjorn (Mark Anthony Krupa), a busty pixie-haired referee (Claudia Jurt) and a gawky red-haired knight, appropriately blessed with the flat sloping face of a young Max von Sydow (Kyle Gatehouse), his interference, or love quest, as the players designate it, causes the fantasy of the Shaman’s Wild Hunt – a frenzied night-time rampage initiated by the blood-letting of a “virgin” – to tip over into frightening reality.

The film-makers are D&D veterans and this is no easy mockery of the fantasy games depicted, but humorous mileage is gotten out of the incongruities of Thor’s hammer being kept under a sink, slippages between the archaic language of the game and contemporary idiolect, and pythonesque touches such as the king’s charge “in the name of my name”. The sunshine, river and forest are photographed to maximum aesthetic effect (a shade overdone) and the varied costumes and the backwoods village compound, complete with Viking longship and stone amphitheatre, are all superb. The slide from fantasy to real-life violence, however, is undercut by some easy and obvious sound design and misses out on the sickening chill that should have made it truly disturbing: blood-lust, suicide and revenge may be fine and noble in myth but look supremely ugly in real life, even if it’s movie real life. With committed playing (though Horn struggles with a part woefully underwritten) the film manages its humour far better than its conflict, and in blurring the ancient stories’ lessons as to how to live an enriched and honourable life, it ends by leaving an unpleasantly sour taste in the mouth.

d Alexandre Franchi p Alexandre Franchi, Karen Murphy sc Alexandre Franchi, Mark Antony Krupa ph Claudine Sauvé ed Stephen Philipson, Arthur Tarnowski pd Katka Hubacek m Vincent Hänni, Gabriel Scotti cast Ricky Mabe, Mark Antony Krupa, Trevor Hayes, Kaniehtiio Horn, Claudia Jurt, Kent McQuaid
(2009, Can, 96m)
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