HUNGER

a film by Carolina Hellsgård

SHORT FICTION / HDV / 35MM / 17′ / GERMANY / 2009

The neglected siblings Roland and Paul watch the deportation of their immigrant neighbours. After that the police has left they decide to enter the abandoned apartment. Inside they discover another world; exotic food, music, clothes and make-up, belonging to the deported family. For a moment they have the chance to immerse themselves in a world of games and play – however  when their father discovers them, they are quickly brought back to reality.

REVIEW

Hunger opens with an image of a boy treading cautiously around an empty apartment in the murky light.We don’t see the boy’s face, but follow him closely from behind. The place is almost dreamlike in its stillness, yet as the scene unfolds the tension becomes more and more palpable. We see the boy move past what appears to be a sleeping man. Trying not to make a sound, the boy picks up a kitten and carries the helpless creature into another room in order to feed it. All of this is conveyed obliquely, through subtle gestures, and equally subtle camera moves.

Without ever slipping into abstraction, Hunger is full of rich metaphors. It tells the story of two brothers left alone to fend for themselves. The older brother guides and takes care of the younger one, yet both are still very much children; hungry and deprived children, who live under the shadow of abuse, which is never directly shown, but always alluded to.

The entire film is shot in a generic modern European block building, the kind of place where you can hear everything the neighbors are doing, and even smell the food they are cooking. It’s a very specific lower-income environment and we expect every apartment to look and feel the same as the next. Yet, when the brothers witness their immigrant neighbors get deported and enter their freshly abandoned flat, they slip into what soon becomes a universe unto itself. Through her directorial choices Hellsgård transforms the neighbor’s apartment into an exotic garden of delights.

The powerful juxtaposition between the two spaces reveals that these children are not only starving for food, but also for visual and tactile stimulation. Hellsgård allows time to stretch out in this Edenic world, which is full of rich smells, exotic sounds, and interesting objects. Free to roam the apartment on their own, the brothers touch, taste, and drink everything within reach. They even try on make-up and women’s clothes, a playful act that seems to hint at the absence of a nourishing feminine presence in their lives. Driven by their natural impulses, and an irrepressible curiosity, the brothers eventually drop their guard and get lost in the moment. This is tenderly and climatically depicted when the younger brother suddenly breaks into a magnificent techno dance.

Unfortunately the brothers’ bliss is interrupted by the wrathful voice of their raging father, an alien and incomprehensible force, clearly capable of inflicting damage.

Made up of small visual and auditory details, Hunger is a tense and poignant drama that isn’t afraid to take its time to unfold. The result is a haunting and powerful cinematic experience. We are honored to have the opportunity to screen this remarkable film at The Standard Print.