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Just as Knut Hamsun's novel, Hunger, considers what it means to starve for one's work, Danish director Henning Carlsen's film adaptation of Hunger portrays the storys protagonist as an inscrutable man whose eccentric dedication to literature costs him his health. Hunger, the first Scandinavian co-production to represent Denmark, Sweden, and Norway in its making, takes place in 1890's Christiania (Oslo), where Pontus (Per Oscarsson) perseveres homelessness and starvation to write articles for a local magazine editor. Filmed in grainy black and white, Hunger is as thoughtfully subtle as an Ingmar Bergman film. Pontus's washed-out hallucinations recall The Seventh Seal, while his preoccupation with the lovely Ylajali (Gunnel Lindblom), whose name he invents because of the way the name rolls off his tongue, recalls the romanticism of Wild Strawberries. Scenes showing Pontus considering how to steal bones from dogs, or pleading with his boots to stay on his feet, capture his self-inflicted tragedy, while other scenes depicting citizens refusing to help Pontus earn money elicit sympathy for his plight. Watching this film alongside Hamsun, a wonderful biography of the author, shows similarities between the author and his most famous character, Pontus, not due to Knut Hamsuns poverty or sketchy mental facility, but rather his undying commitment to skepticism and literature. Hunger, however, quiets those personality traits, making Pontus as sensitive as he is uncompromising. --Trinie Dalton
- 34 minute interview with director Henning Carlsen
- 26 minute filmed conversation between author Paul Auster and Regine Hamsun, granddaughter of Knut Hamsun
- Henning Carlsen filmography
- Extensive stills gallery
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Top Customer Reviews
Fine adaption of what may be my favorite novel of all time, Knut Hamsun's HUNGER.
Waited decades to see this. Finally, when I noticed that the DVD was available on amazon.com, I
got my copy.
Great novels don't always make great films; it's true--but this is that rarest of times when the film is actually as good (or, let's say...comes quite close.) That's high praise from me, because my belief has always been that no matter how terrific a filmed version of a fine novel is, it can never be as good as the book.
If you love Hamsun's beautifully written novel, you'll enjoy this remarkable film.
So how do you make a movie out of a story that just follows this weird, obsessive, self-absorbed egotist around a nineteenth century city? One thing you do at the start is cast Per Oscarsson. The Norwegian actor gives the performance of a lifetime as the film's main character, who unlike in the novel is given a name - Pontus. Oscarsson, painfully thin, unshaven, bespectacled, dressed in a tight, shabby suit and perpetually carrying around a bundle of his unpublished manuscripts, is riveting. He moves in quick, sharp, hesitant motions like some kind of neurotic seabird, and he keeps up a constant little mumble to himself, a running commentary on how well his day is going and what he wants to do next and what he thinks of the people around him and the city and anything else that comes into his head. Pontus is visibly going mad with hunger.
It probably sounds like a deeply depressing film, but it's not. The black comedy of Pontus' encounters with people, his absurd attempt to present himself as a more successful and satisfied person than he really is, are what make this film so watchable. The only character in film that I could compare him to is David Thewlis' bitter lumpen-intellectual drifter Johnny in Mike Leigh's 'Naked', but Thewlis' character is more paranoid, bitter and selfish, sponging off everyone around him, while Pontus not only refuses to accept the slightest gesture of charity from anyone, he also refuses to feel sorry for himself. Ultimately, there's something weirdly noble about him.
It's a great performance in a great, haunting film, warmer than Bresson or Bergman and funnier than either.