Firing shots in the dark in Hunter
by Bénédicte Prot
Rafi Pitts’ remarkably intelligent Iranian film Hunter [+see also:
film profile], co-produced by ZDF/Arte with backing from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, the FFA and the Berlinale World Cinema Fund, was presented in competition at the festival’s 60th edition. It is a film against arbitrary violence based on the idea that we cannot know what type of person we really want to kill, whose full subject only becomes clear in the final minute of a swiftly-handled story.
At first, the film seems to be structured round binary divisions: day work and night work – the only possibility for Ali, the film’s gloomy hero, played by Pitts, since he has done time in prison; the deafening hubbub of the city and the silence of the forest where Ali hunts down game, shotgun in hand; police and demonstrators (the film is set during the recent elections, although shooting had wrapped up before the riots took a turn for the worse)...Until Ali’s wife (Mitra Hajjar) and daughter are found dead after being caught in crossfire. This leaves them in doubt about who is to blame, as is announced coldly by a policeman who represents a bureaucracy that asks more questions than it answers – a deliberate choice on the part of a director who also defines his profession thus, based on his conviction that everyone has a right to their own interpretation, and so intentionally leaves a few elements unexplained.
With the binarism of things blurred in such a way, Ali, described by Pitts as a "time-bomb" in a rather universal Kafkaesque situation (despite the particular significance of the remark coming from an Iranian director), nevertheless picks up his marksman’s gear again to take his revenge on the policemen. He is soon caught on the edge of a forest where the two policemen who arrest him (one is corrupt, the other more human, wearing his uniform without conviction) get lost and quarrel vigorously in torrential rain.
The "good" policeman then gives Ali the chance to shoot down another uniform in order to get rid of his colleague, a situation whose outcome means that without knowing who is in this uniform, even when you think you are aiming at your victim with a sniper’s precision, in the end you always commit a totally arbitrary act.
The subject (which hinges not on conceptual developments but truly blends into the story) is beautiful, the levels of interpretation and references manifold, and the structure complex, despite its transparent appearance. Here, Pitts treats viewers to an intellectually highbrow, human and utterly masterful auteur film.
(Translated from French)
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