The Movie Waffler Tribeca Film Festival 2024 Review - HUNTERS ON A WHITE FIELD | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca Film Festival 2024 Review - HUNTERS ON A WHITE FIELD

When their animal prey mysteriously disappears, three hunters turn their guns on each other.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Sarah Gyllenstierna

Starring: Ardalan Esmaili, Magnus Krepper, Jens Hultén


The last couple of years have seen several indie filmmakers set their narratives against the backdrop of hunting trips. In The Integrity of Joseph Chambers, an emasculated man heads into the woods determined to kill an animal to prove his manhood, with disastrous consequences. Hunting Daze sees a stripper stuck with the male hunting party she performed for, and embraces her masculine side in the process. A teenage lesbian endures an increasingly uncomfortable hunting trip in the company of her father and his estranged friend in Good One. In A Family Guide to Hunting a woman uses a hunting trip as a means of introducing her Korean-American family to her white boyfriend.

What could be behind this current trend? I suspect first and foremost it's a case of following the advice of confining your low budget movie to a single location, and a forest gives you instant production value. But it's also a chance to explore several themes within that setting, with disparate characters thrown together in a milieu that some will embrace while others will be uncomfortable within.


With Hunters on a White Field, Swedish writer/director Sarah Gyllenstierna puts three men in a forest, loads them up with alcohol and ammo, and watches the sparks fly. It has a similar dynamic to Hunting Daze, but here it's not a woman positioned as the outsider but a young Asian man, Alex (Ardalan Esmaili). Alex embarks on a hunting trip with his older boss Gregger (Magnus Krepper), whom he is keen to impress. Gregger seems similarly impressed by Alex and has taken him under his fatherly wings. They head off to the Swedish countryside, with Gregger tearing up the back roads in his sportscar, and arrive at a cabin owned by the family of the boorish Henrik (Jens Hultén).

At first Alex is clearly uncomfortable in the presence of these two loud and obnoxious white men, who physically tower over him and don't hesitate in making crude jokes about his dark skin negating his need for camouflage. Desperate to fit in, Alex keeps quiet. But when Alex starts bagging animals, something changes within him. He discovers something primal within himself and starts to stand up for himself in the company of Gregger and Henrik, who come to view him as an equal.


For its first hour, Hunters on a White Field is an effective slow burn character study. With minimal dialogue, Gyllenstierna portrays the shifting psychologies of each of her male protagonists. As Alex becomes a gun-toting alpha male, Gregger and Henrik become less boorish and begin speaking in pseudo-spiritual terms about the communion between hunter and prey. There's a sad desperation in these men who have climbed ladders to lofty perches in society and yet feel like they've lost something along the way, that they've been tamed by modern society. There's much talk of the old Viking ways, and it's telling that Alex begins to metaphorically puff his chest out when he's accidentally cut by an ancient hunting knife during some boisterous play-acting. You get the sense that Alex is empowered by killing animals because for the first time in his life he feels like he's the one in control.

Things take an unwieldy tonal shift in a final act that plunges the drama into the realm of the absurd. The three men make a pact and suddenly the film begins to resemble something like Marco Ferreri's La Grande Bouffe in its satirical detachment from reality. It's a shift I'm afraid I simply couldn't buy, as it jars so much with the psychological character study the film had rendered so effectively prior to that point.


If her feature debut doesn't quite come together, there's much here to suggest Gyllenstierna is a filmmaker of some promise. In her film's moody build-up she creates a tense atmosphere by allowing us to observe how the characters react to one another's behaviour. She never relies on dialogue to define her characters; in fact what's said here is often a defensive front and nothing uttered by these insecure men can be taken at face value. But perhaps her film's greatest strength is in how deeply pathetic it makes the "sport" of killing animals appear. This is clearly a pastime for deeply insecure, middle class, middle-aged men. Just buy a sportscar lads.

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