This isn’t my first time seeing this André Øvredal film, and anyone who’s seen it can understand why I had to watch it again: it’s just that good.
You’ll Believe It When You See It
Set up as a found-footage mockumentary in the spirit of The Blair Witch Project, the film follows a group of three intrepid film students from Volda College shooting a documentary on bear poaching. They focus on an elusive and enigmatic man named Hans who is rumored to be hunting bears illegally. We meet Kalle the cameraman, Johanna on sound, and the lead filmmaker Thomas.
As they travel from Volda to Sogn og Fjordane County in pursuit of Hans, he repeatedly tells them to back off: “It isn’t very smart to follow me.” When he reveals that he’s a trollhunter, the crew understandably doesn’t believe him, but he allows them to keep filming as long as they promise to do exactly as he says. “No one here believes in God or Jesus?” he asks them. They all affirm that they do not. (Of course, it wouldn’t be much fun if they were all telling the truth, would it?) Only when Thomas, Johanna, and Kalle see the trolls for themselves do they begin to grasp what they’ve gotten themselves into. However, once they make it through the first night, their fear turns to excitement as they realize that the bizarre world they’ve stumbled upon is a documentarian’s dream.
It turns out that Hans works for the TSS—Troll Security Service—a division of the Wildlife Board, who put him in charge of troll control. He’s the only trollhunter in Norway. He explains: “My job is to kill any troll that breaks out of its territory and comes near people.” This bureaucracy aspect lends a touch of humor to the film. Indeed, Trollhunter is a masterful blend of fantasy, comedy, and horror. (Otto Jespersen, the actor who plays Hans, is a noted—and controversial—Norwegian comedian.) “Fairy tales don’t usually match reality,” Hans tells the filmmakers, to which Thomas cheekily replies: “They seem to in this case.”
Science works alongside bureaucracy to cast a disenchanting mundaneness on the troll-laden fantasy in which Thomas, Johanna, and Kalle find themselves. A veterinarian named Hilde (who is hinted to be Hans’s love interest) informs us that “the trolls’ main problem is that they can’t convert Vitamin D, from the sunlight, into calcium. So when they are exposed to bright sunlight, their bodies overreact. Their stomachs expand. Gases are forced into their intestines and veins. This becomes unbearable.” Older ones, however, suffer a different fate: “Their veins are too constricted, so the expansion occurs in their bones. In a matter of seconds, everything calcifies and they turn to stone.”
We learn that there are an unusual amount of trolls moving around at this time. But why is Hans letting them watch what he does? “Because I’m tired of the shitty job. I have no rights whatsoever. I get no night bonus. No overtime. No nuisance compensation. Maybe it’s time for change in troll management. So if you could get this on TV…” We learn that there are an unusual amount of trolls moving around at this time. Conflict between mountain trolls and woodland trolls, as well as a rabies epidemic, have led to increasingly erratic troll behavior, possibly compounded by effects of global warming. Bigger trolls are breaking out of their territory and coming closer and closer to human settlements, making more work for Hans. The film’s ending is brilliant; the group’s final showdown with the enormous 200-foot-tall Jotnar troll is a nail-biter, even when you’ve seen the film before, but in the end, it turns out that it might not be the trolls that they have to worry about…
The Rose Seller (Colombia, 1998)