This was an impulse viewing if ever such a thing existed. I was expecting to see an over-the-top special effects heavy movie in the vein of Cloverfield that was visually intriguing, but lacked very little beyond that. Fortunately, for me, TrollHunter was so much more. A very self-aware film, TrollHunter takes as much time perfecting the monster movie genre as it does mocking it, incorporating the found footage elements to make a heavy political statement while also dodging heavy reliance on technical wizardry to captivate audiences. It is a fun movie that is thrilling not for its suspense, but because its genuine captivating qualities which range from humorous dialogue to enthralling imagery of Norwegian wilderness. I am surprised that it took me so long to hear about this film and feel completely obliged to share it with as many people as possible.
As a found footage film, TrollHunter posits itself as a factual account claiming to be uncovered in a recent release of government documents. It centers on a group of students who are intrigued by a recent rash of bear deaths in the area, believing it to be a direct result of unethical hunting practices. However, they quickly discover that what they though to be the actions of a group are instead centered around the work of one mysterious and continually elusive man named Hans (Otto Jespersen). When the crew finally catches up with Hans, they persistently demand he answer for his ways, assuming him to be the bear murderer. Hans dismisses them and warns them to avoid his lifestyle because it will prove deadly if they do not. The group refuses to yield to the warnings and follows Hans into the woods only to lose him instantly. Taken back by disturbing sounds the group stalls only to discover Hans fleeing out of the woods while yelling out the word “troll.” It is in this instance that the group discovers that the bear deaths are reflective of something much larger, literally. Hans explains to the group that he is tasked with maintaining the troll population in Norway and that it is a process enacted by the government. Realizing that they have stumbled upon cinematic gold, the crew follows Hans on his daily activities realizing that his job as troll hunter is as bizarre as it is lonely, which slowly leads to a bonding amongst the group. As they continue their quest, they realize that the government’s insistence on hiding trolls is indicative of larger issues and that Hans is a pawn for the government who sees the trolls as a hindrance and wants nothing more than to destroy them all. It is in this realization that Hans uses the documentary as a call for help to the dying trolls, hoping that all that view the material will realize the trolls indifference towards humanity and that a possibility of a harmonious existence.
In typical Scandinavian fashion, the film is incredibly liberal and blatantly uses the trolls as a commentary on environmental decay. The film’s writer and director André Øvredal seems fit to blame the entirety of this downfall on conservative ideology, particularly that which is concerned with capitalist advances. It is clear throughout the film that the government’s only reason for hiding the trolls is that as large, lumbering beasts they interfere with the extension of power lines and other forms of industrial evolution, which inevitably rely on destruction of the natural world. To the government officials in the film murdering the trolls is a simple and cost-efficient answer to industrialization, particularly given that Hans is the only troll hunter in existence. Øvredal also has no qualms about attaching the problem to Christianity as well, using Scandanavian folklore as inspiration. Hans notes that trolls lust for the blood of Christians, which inevitably associates their negative relationship to the natural world. The critique is logical in a liberal sense, because in many discourses Christianity is a root for modern oppression. The films narrative is even careful to note its fondness of Michael Moore, who the crew cites as a role model. Finally, the film is obviously a call to maintain the natural world through its cinematography, which often consists of long panning shots of the Norwegian landscape, which are simultaneously breathtaking, and a sobering reminder of the continually vanishing natural world and the hands of technological advances. In the closing scenes, the film brilliantly edits a interview with the Norwegian Prime Minister to make it appear as though he acknowledges the existence of trolls, or in a metaphorical sense a nature in need of preservation.
As I noted this is a Norwegian version of Cloverfield, but is considerably better, and getting a copy on Blu-Ray should be understood.