Directed by: Alexandre Franchi
Written by: Alexandre Franchi, Mark A. Krupa
Cast: Mark A. Krupa, Ricky Mabe, Tiio Horn, Trevor Hayes
As humans we are in constant conflict with ourselves.
We are constantly fighting against the social confines we find ourselves in (i.e. having a job, paying rent, monogamy) and our greater animal instincts, those supposed primal urges that we have been taught to so neatly oppress. This is exactly where humor and terror collide in Alexandre Franchi's The Wild Hunt, a movie that continually teases its audience as to where our social boundaries are drawn.
Based in and around the world of LARP, The Wild Hunt examines the blurred lines that occur when a scruffy hipster named Erik (Ricky Mabe) crashes a weekend long event in hopes of retrieving his girlfriend, Lyn(Tiio Horn), who's been distancing herself from Erik for some time. Also at the weekend LARP getaway is Erik's brother Bjorn (Mark A Krupa) who is King of the Vikings and is seeking support against the Shaman Murtagh (Trevor Hayes) who, in the game, has kidnapped Lyn.
LARP, for anyone who may not know, stands for Live Action Role Playing, and was awesomely portrayed in 2008's Role Models. Essentially LARP consists of acting out elaborated fantasy worlds and engaging in battles against evil kings and wizards and fairies, depending which team you're on, of course. Shot in Quebec, The Wild Hunt is a Canadian film through and through which is awesome. Let's not forget Black Christmas is Canadian - that's the original one, and not the shitty remake.
The Wild Hunt was made for under a million dollars with assistance from TeleFilm Canada, which I can only assume now stipulates that Jay Baruchel must appear in some form in all Canadian movies, does feel very Canadian or almost any post-colonized country with the majority of the characters emulating ways and means of foreign countries until Erik finally pipes up with, "we're not Vikings, we're Canadian." Shot in rural Quebec the film makes the most of its surroundings, going from the urban areas to the disparate countryside which emphasizes human nature's proximity to nature while also avoiding and fearing it.
All those moments help build the themes within the piece, which is a person's need and right to escapism. If one person chooses to escapism over real life, as Bjorn does, another person must compensate for their actions, as Erik must. Lyn who is herself a subdued character only hints at some deep seeded trauma, thankfully she does so in the quiet moments of the film when the weight of her words can be felt. With minimal scenes and dialogue Lyn and Erik's relationship is shown to be both a burden to her as well as one of the few positive things in her life. Franchi, who co-wrote the film with one of the stars Mark A. Krupa (Bjorn), never dwells on moments or the problems of the characters. Instead he works to create a fully formed world hinting at the problems that the characters come up against.
The film exposes its viewers to the world outside the game with harshly and coldly shot cityscapes. We see that Erik's life is relegated to caring for his elderly father with Lyn acting as some kind of emotional band-aid. The LARP world is portrayed with more dramatic and cinematic shots with warmer colors filling the screen. Revolutionary? No. Effective? Yes. Claudine Sauvé's cinematography is filled with emotional paradoxes. The viewers are pulled in for close up shots revealing the intensity that characters feel around them, then flipped to a long shot revealing the humor and sadness that permeates this story. The stark shots are both meandering and focused. While the camera films with unsteady movements the goals of the shots are precise, focusing on moments that give The Wild Hunt its emotional impact.
For all the simplicity of the story, boy chases after girl; Franchi imbues the film with a sense of purposes. The audience can understand why Lyn, who is a hot mess herself, means so damn much to Erik. She's his life line after his older brother has given up on the world and immersed himself so deeply in LARP that he's of little use to anyone else. The thought of Erik losing Lyn to LARP feeds the 86 minute running time quite easily.
Franchi also has an impressive cast of relative new comers in the leads and the rest of the cast filled up with actual LARP players. Mabe easily fills out the role of disenfranchised youth and Tiio Horn looks like a scruffed up Lindsay Lohan, but you actually feel sorry for her. The real scene-stealer however has to be Mark A Krupa as Bjorn. Full of bombast, humor and charisma without Bjorn I dread to think what this movie would be like without him. Though he is fully devoted to LARP you see Bjorn soften to his brother and their relationship begins to feel like the most genuine and honest in the film.
The Wild Hunt succeeds on many levels the most important being spot on with it's tone. There are moments of laugh out loud absurdity that mix with the Lord of the Flies feeling that seeps in through the film. The ending is shocking, dark and haunting. This is a testament to the filmmakers because it's not until the end you realize the kinship you feel with these characters. For all the absurdity and violence that could have been easily avoided there is a deep sense of humanity which is what LARP aspires to, a sense of belonging and connection with like-minded people. The only problems arise when our animal instincts get in the way of our sense of play.