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Troll Hunter (2010,Norway)

23/01/2012

Director: Andre Ovredal               Starring: Otto Jesperen, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Morck, Hans Morten Hansen

I had an interesting conversation with a customer the other day who was buying Troll Hunter on blu ray. As I had yet to see it, I asked him if he’d seen it already, to which he rather sheepishly replied he had, having downloaded it off the internet. He thought it was so good he should buy it when it came out, a determination he was making good. In an age where internet piracy gets the blame for all the ills of the entertainment industry I thought this was quite a refreshing approach and proof of something I’ve been saying for a long time – if studios would make more films worth buying, people would go out and buy them rather than stealing them off the internet.*

Presented as a “found footage” film, reconstructed from the recovered tapes of a student film crew, it follows Hans (Jesperen), a man suspected of poaching bears but who, it turns out, is actually a government enlisted hunter of trolls. He agrees to let the students follow him in his work (largely because he’s tired of being exploited by his employers) who have their sceptical eyes opened to the reality of the existence of trolls in the woods and mountains of Norway.

Found footage films are always something of a gamble and rarely, in my opinion, are any good. For every Rec there’s a Diary Of The Dead or Paranormal Activity which prove how easy it is to make a complete shambles of the technique. The appeal to filmmakers (especially first timers a la The Blair Witch Project) is fairly obvious as it offers an opportunity to make a film with the minimum of expense but it seems to me that it takes a special talent to pull it off effectively. With Troll Hunter it actually works, although I could do without the pre/post credits “these tapes were recovered…” messages which really aren’t necessary.

Performance wise it’s really all about Jesperen who occupies the majority of the screen time and he is excellent as the gruff Hans who disdainfully allows the students to tag along with him despite their disbelief at his claimed profession. He cuts an imposing figure, every inch the veteran hunter, stoic and professional. He also does an outstanding job of acting alongside the other main characters in the film, the deftly executed computer generated trolls.

Regular readers will be more than aware of my disdain for CGI shortcutting, the lazy reliance of computers to achieve effects that would be better done mechanically or optically being my main pet hate of contemporary cinema. Here, it’s difficult to see how else they could have achieved the monster effects (I suppose they could have used stop motion animation which I admit would have been pretty cool), certainly on the budget they would have had available. As the trolls only come out at night they are often encountered in the dark or via night vision which undoubtedly has helped integrate them into the live action footage but this shouldn’t take away from the obvious skill of the animators in bringing the (sometimes gargantuan) trolls to vivid life.

It’s probably significant that the rights for the inevitable Hollywood remake were secured before the film was even released, those crafty (lazy) Americans clearly spotting the potential of Troll Hunter at an early stage. As usual, this is another example of foreign language cinema that really doesn’t need to be remade. It’s difficult to see how it could be significantly improved upon and it seems only fit and proper that a film so heavily rooted in Scandinavian folklore (watch out for the tremendous Three Billy Goats Gruff tribute scene) should be made in Norway and enjoyed in its Norwegian form. One thing is for certain, as an argument against piracy Troll Hunter stands tall as it is impossible to watch it without feeling that the people responsible deserve to be properly compensated for their efforts in making what amounts to an excellent, entertaining fantasy adventure.

*I don’t really want to enter into a debate about internet downloading here, I bring it up only to highlight the point that if something’s good enough, people won’t have any hesitation at paying for it.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 23/01/2012 12:14

    Troll Hunter played for a very short time near us (I think I even sent John F a promo postcard for it). Of course, we missed it, but I thought it might have had potential. So glad to read that it was a positive experience! Another one added to the ever growing list….

    • 23/01/2012 12:16

      It’s definitely worth seeking out. Preferrably before your countrymen ride roughshod over it….

  2. 16/09/2012 04:42

    Right with you on your remarks about those lazy Americans

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