Produced, directed by Erden Kiral. Screenplay, Osman Sahin. Veteran Hungarian director Erden Kiral (“The Mirror”) tells a popular legend twice in two different ways in the mysterious, atmospheric “The Hunter.” Though finely lensed and acted, pic suffers from the fact that the first tale is more intriguing than the second version. Given film’s visual beauty, festival exposure may lead to scattered sales to artfilm markets.
A young bride and groom are traveling in canoes through a dreamlike swamp, along with their relatives and the rest of the wedding party. As they maneuver their way to a destination that is revealed only at pic’s end, two old-timers tell the story of the Hunter.
In the old man’s version, Osman the Noble (Ahmet Ugurlu) is so much in love with his beautiful wife, Zala (Jale Arikan), that he agrees to accompany her on horseback to visit her native town. Taking shelter from a rainstorm in a hut in the middle of the forest, they meet a handsome, half-wild young hunter (Fikret Kuskan). A spark of lust fans into a flame between Zala and the stranger. While they consummate their passion, the good husband kills the hunter, losing Zala forever.
Things change in the old woman’s story. The hunter, more of a highway robber than a woodsman, makes Zala uneasy from the start. He tricks the greedy Osman into falling into a deep well, then brutally rapes Zala. In her humiliation, she pushes him into the well, too, and leaves both of them to die.
Though it’s clear why the stories follow in the order they do, the characters are more interesting, and the atmosphere much more sexually charged, in the first telling, making the second story an anticlimax.
Aided by three excellent thesps with memorable faces, and a chilling ethnic score by Arto Tunchoyaciyan, Kiral creates the tense atmosphere of a nightmarish fairy tale. Anything seems possible in the magic woods, where birds tell stories and ancient trees walk around at night. Pic could have done without the extremely graphic sex scenes, which puts it out of young viewers’ reach.