The Wild Hunt (2010) dir. Alexandre Franchi
Starring: Kyle Gatehouse, Mark Antony Krupa, Kaniehtiio Horn, Trevor Hayes, Claudia Jurt
By Alan Bacchus
It’s been said there are only so many stories to tell, and even less in genre cinema. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, along comes a film like The Wild Hunt, which is kind of amazing – a truly original and unpredictable genre film with equal parts comedy, horror, tragedy.
Canadian director Alexandre Franchi creates a Shakespearean worthy melodrama within the little known world of LARPers, that is Live Action Role Playing – people who have taken Dungeons and Dragons to the level beyond the 12 sided die into actual embodiment of its characters. All around the world LARPers convene at various events and conventions for celebratory games of role playing. And herein Franchi masterfully finds some monumental comedy and tragedy.
The Wild Hunt is clever to deceive us with a traditional and familiar setup. After our hero David (Kyle Gatehouse) breaks up with girlfriend Evelyn (Horn), he rushes after her with reckless abandon with full on romantic blinders on. Here’s where it gets a little tricky...Evelyn has taken the weekend off to participate in the annual Renaissance fair and the problem for David is he can’t gain access to the grounds unless he’s in costume and in character and part of the game. David thus reluctantly joins up with his older brother Bjorn (Mark Krupa), the most enthusiastic gamer of all them, someone who refuses to break character despite his brother’s pleas for help.
Once in the game Evelyn is captured by Bjorn’s rival group, led by the nasty shaman Murtagh (Trevor Hayes) who angles for the affection of Evelyn both in and out of character. We’re never quite sure if it’s part of the role playing, or whether David’s enemies truly want Evelyn to themselves. It’s all fun and games till someone gets hurt and gradually, like the kids of ‘Lord of the Flies’, what starts out fun, devolves into sinister and possibly deadly real world conflict.
It would have been easy for Franchi to lampoon the Larping milieu, after all the notion of grown men and women dressing up as medieval knights is particularly absurd, and god knows these types of people have been beaten down before in cinema (ie. The Cable Guy and Role Models). And so it’s refreshing to see Franchi approach the subject matter seriously, without ridicule, but with a dash of the absurd.
Only when we take this world seriously do we understand how the actions of the characters could progress to such obsessive delusions of grandeur. In the third act when things go awry we can understand the mindset of the players living in an insular world of their own, channelling some kind of Meisner technique, and unable to see the forest from the trees. The result is a biting social commentary reminiscent of the social malfeasance of Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots.
Franchi’s elevated operatic style of storytelling allows the action to push the boundaries of plausibility while staying in total reality. And with a miniscule $500,000 budget Franchi masterfully creates a visually vibrant world as big and bold as the emotions and actions of his characters. Interviews over the festival life of the film reveals that Franchi shot in a real Larping event and used the real people, props, costumes to amplify his production value.
The miracle of The Wild Hunt though is Franchi’s chutzpah and assured confidence to push the film in a direction few if any would predict. Without giving too much away, by the end you should be left breathless, shocked with mouth agape as I was. This is one of the best films of the year.
'The Wild Hunt' is available on DVD from TVA Films in Canada