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Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami travels to Japan for this reflective drama
A group of student film-makers follow a mysterious hunter through rural Norway to document his search for some very unusual prey...
The Norwegian landscape, with its icy fjords and geometric mountain-tops, is among the most enigmatic and harsh in the world. It's less of a stretch to believe in those things that logic dictates cannot possibly exist when staring down the cool white snow peaks and rainy grey-blue colour palette of the Arctic stretches of Scandinavia. Troll Hunter's director, Andre Ovredal, is well aware of this and in realising that his country's bounty is his greatest natural asset, has filmed a totally charming gem of a movie.
When a group of college students eager to kick-start their news-casting careers film their investigation into a mysterious supposed bear-poacher, they uncover a world of trolls ripped straight from the darkest of Norwegian folklore. Their guide, the gruff Otto Jespersen as Hans, is more than just Virgil to the teens' Dante; he is a well-realised loner, secretly eager to open up about his clandestine occupation as Troll Hunter extraordinaire. The central cast are a tight group of four, all of whom feel very natural in their roles. Alongside Hans' "grumpy teddybear" turn, Glenn Erland Tosterud gives a disarming performance as wannabe anchorman Thomas best described as cheeky.
Too silly to be played off as a horror outing, occasional lulls in humour leave the script floundering a little, though Hans' po-faced attitude to his prey rarely fails to raise a giggle - and refreshingly for a "found-footage" film, audiences don't have to wait long before the eponymous hunted trolls are revealed. There's still time for suspense though, as the set-up crackles with intrigue. Patiently awaiting a fleeting glimpse of something frightening, audiences won't be disappointed when the first of the film's trolls comes barrelling out of the forest and reveals itself in all its glory. Creature design is top-notch, with the trolls looking both cartoonish and frightening; they are earthy, hairy and crotchety, blending perfectly with their environment. Troll Hunter distances itself from other shaky-cam cinema by delivering fantastic visuals that almost never slip below believability, and the overall quality of the footage is crisp and clear.
What's more, Ovredal audaciously weaves the real world into his film's mythology. One example has audiences told in deadpan tones that electrical pylons throughout Norway act as electric fences to contain trolls. The introduction of several characters late in the game feels totally random and pointless, but does not draw viewers too far from the enthralling bulk of the film.
Delightfully silly and likely to etch the battle-cry of "troll!" into audiences' minds long after its end.
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