The Hunter

Movies, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
The Hunter
Visually striking, ideologically forthright, utterly unsettling: this is Iranian cinema of a stripe we haven’t seen before. Shot in the months preceding the disputed 2009 elections, Rafi Pitts’s film offers an unstinting portrait of an individual suffocated by his society. The writer-director (pictured above) also takes the central role, a taciturn, brooding presence as a former political activist stuck in a night watchman’s job he hates, and whose sole release is taking his rifle into the woods. Crisis point is reached when his wife and child are killed in a gun battle between police and ‘insurgents’, prompting him to take to the slopes overlooking a busy Tehran freeway and get a cop car in his gun sight…

The next few moments have genuine shock value in the context of today’s Iran, though the tone and feel of Pitts’s film hark back to the cult classics of late-’60s and early-’70s Hollywood: think Peter Bogdanovich’s provocative ‘Targets’, the vistas of soulless LA in Antonioni’s ‘Zabriskie Point’, or the questioning bleakness of a Monte Hellman. While the plotting leaves the protagonist feeling cornered, Pitts also uses sound and image to convey the isolating oppression of everyday Iran, so allowing us to understand (if not necessarily condone) his character’s extreme actions. Controlled colour, seemingly naturalistic locations visualised in tellingly expressive compositions, startling use of heavy-duty percussion on the soundtrack: the all-encompassing formal precision builds on the achievement of Pitts’s previous ‘It’s Winter’.
The point here, though, isn’t just a howl of protest, but, as events move towards an intimate and decisive confrontation, it’s a challenge for authorities and dissidents alike to consider the human cost of continuing conflict. Sombre and piercing, ‘The Hunter’ courageously defends the right to voice resistance.

By: Trevor Johnston


Release details

Cast and crew

Director: Rafi Pitts
Screenwriter: Rafi Pitts
Cast: Rafi Pitts
Mitra Hajjar
Ismaïl Amani
Gholamreza Rajabzadeh
Hossein Nickbakht