View Full Version : Henning Carlsen's HUNGER (1966)

oscar jubis
11-18-2006, 12:16 PM
This adaptation of the classic Knut Hamsun novel "Sult" was the first Danish/Swedish/Norwegian co-production. According to writer/director Henning Carlsen, it was among the first entirely "interior", first-person works of literature. Pontus, the protagonist, has come from the countryside to 1890 Christiana (in Norway) intending to make a living as a writer. He is possibly a genius but poverty and starvation stand on his way and begin to drive him mad. Pontus would rather starve and live in the streets than betray his dignity and his pride. He wouldn't accept a free meal or reveal how desperate his circumstances. When fortune smiles at him, he is ill-equipped to take advantage. He is seemingly out of his element, and fumbles an opportunity to seduce the young woman he loves from afar.

Hunger was entirely shot on location, in Oslo, just before it underwent architectural modernization. The film was shot and designed to take place in an environment with a timeless quality. We don't see any evidence of modernity, but Carlsen and his crew also de-emphasize the period detail of conventional films set in the past. The focus is entirely on the actions, thoughts and dreamlife of Pontus. As such, the film is dependent on Per Oscarsson's spellbinding performance. Oscarsson was named Best Actor at Cannes, the first of many awards he received worldwide.

New Yorker Video has recently released this b&w classic on dvd, and it's one of their best efforts. The digital transfer was personally supervised by Mr. Carlsen. He discusses the film's production history and the challenge of adapting a first-person novel in a 38-minute interview. There's also a lively conversation between the novelist's granddaughter and Paul Auster, one of the film's fervent admirers. This is one the hidden gems of world cinema and the New Yorker release on dvd is definitive. Rejoice cinephiles!