Close Up

11 May 2019: Hunger


Henning Carlsen, 1966, 106 min
Danish with English subtitles

""Just because one is a sensitive kind of person doesn't mean one is mad." Henning Carlsen's adaptation of Knut Hamsun's novel, Hunger, captures a meek man (Per Oscarsson) and his insatiable search for sustenance and hope through the lifeless streets of Christiania (old Oslo). Like the tone and tenets of neorealism which probed into the harsh social realities of a war-scarred Italy, Hunger focuses on how intense starvation influences a man's experience of reality. The camera becomes an eye for the way that hunger manifests itself in this Christiania man. The architecture reveals his famished state: stark buildings, barren water-stained apartment walls, empty streets, leafless trees, eerie grey skies. Unlike neorealism, however, the 1966 production uses dreams and "mindscreen" to seize the character's emotion-charged soul-searching and heighten his imagination and intellectual inquiry. This is not hunger like that of a dog; it's a spiritual lack, a quest for the substance of life. At one point, the protagonist regurgitates the raw meat scrapings from a bone fit for a dog and exclaims: "Damnation! Is there nothing one can keep for oneself?" Per Oscarsson punctuates each line with brilliant delivery and makes the desperation of Hunger immediate."  – Gustavo Lamanna

Part of our tribute to Scott Walker