The Hunt was one of my two favourites this year at WIFF, the other being – surprise! – another Scandinavian film Oslo-August 31st (Nov. 10 post). Needless to say Scandinavia boasts one of my favourite world cinemas. The Hunt is directed by Thomas Vinterberg, a founder of the Dogme 95 movement, which calls for films to be stripped of artifice (ie., special effects) and be made in real places with hand held cameras (creating a more realistic effect). It stars the great Mads Mikkelsen (above left) who was also in WIFF’s screening of A Royal Affair (Nov. 10 post). This is the kind of film that wouldn’t get made in Hollywood or probably North America generally. For one thing it’s slightly politically incorrect. For another it doesn’t deal in pat happy endings. It’s about child abuse and I’ll leave it at that.
Farewell My Queen (Benoît Jacquot) follows Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) a handmaiden to Marie Antoinette during the tumultuous events of the French Revolution in July 1789. This is more character study than historical drama, and virtually all of the action takes place within the squalid servant quarters or glittering halls of Versailles. The queen and her court might be the targets of the French masses but Sidonie, the queen’s reader, has taken an immense liking to her, only to be served up as “bait” in the end. This competently made film by veteran Jacquot with well acted roles is kind of an 18th Century French Upstairs Downstairs with tragic political overtones.