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SFS Talkies / World Cinema Series : Hunger / Sult

What A celebrated but by now largely forgotten Swedish-Norwegian-Danish adaptation of the Knut Hamsun classic, Henning Carlsen's icy 1966 film chronicles that entropic spiralling out of a literally starving would-be writer (Per Oscarsson), semi-deranged by hunger and humiliation, dying for a meal but too proud and pretentious to accept it via charity or dishonesty.
When 9 December 2008 (Tuesday), 7.30pm
Where National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre
93 Stamford Road Singapore 178897
Admission

Free admission but members only -- flash your membership card to go in. You may bring up to 2 guests if you hold a SFS Reel membership card. Non-members may sign up online or at the door -- we will issue membership on the spot.

Tickets for the public: $8 / $6.40 concession.

Counter Sales: Stamford Visitor Services Counter: 10am – 7.30pm;
Canning Visitor Services Counter: 10am – 5pm.
Online Booking: www.nationalmuseum.sg (click on Online Booking tab at the bottom of the webpage).
Ticketing Information: 6332 3659.
General Enquiries: 6332 5642.
Patrons are advised that a valid identity pass is required for all screenings.

 

 

Director: Henning Carlsen

1966 / Norway-Denmark-Sweden / 112 min / 35 mm / In Danish with English subtitles / Rating to be advised

Synopsis:

A celebrated but by now largely forgotten Swedish-Norwegian-Danish adaptation of the Knut Hamsun classic, Henning Carlsen's icy 1966 film chronicles that entropic spiralling out of a literally starving would-be writer (Per Oscarsson), semi-deranged by hunger and humiliation, dying for a meal but too proud and pretentious to accept it via charity or dishonesty.

At first glance, Pontus (Per Oscarsson) looks like a well-groomed businessman but on second look, there is something not right. His smile reveals a core of rotting teeth and his manner seems odd. He follows two young women on their walk through the city of Christiana (later Oslo) in Norway in 1890, yet keeps telling one of the women that she has dropped her book. He stops a policeman to inquire about the time, but insists that the officer is in error. Henning Carlsen's Hunger probes the inner working of the mind of a talented young writer living in poverty and on the verge of insanity.

Hamsun's hero still has a totemic tint to him; in 1890, he embodied a rebellious fin de siècle vision of anti-industrial thinking and Romantic sacrifice. Carlsen's film scans more like a character study of creative madness imploding under the isolating pressure of poverty. It is in any case a showcase for the emaciated Oscarsson, whose numerous trophies included Best Actor nods from Cannes and from the National Society of Film Critics, and whose fidgety, theatrical physicality is difficult to forget.

Hunger could be taken as an examination of the ego of the artist, obsessively firing odd thoughts into an unconcerned world out of some heightened sense of self-importance, never bothering to take in any ideas for fear that they would pollute the genius already hiding within them. Or perhaps it's just nihilism incarnate - the guy refuses to eat, just as he refuses to live in police society with its various rules, restrictions and requirements. He chooses a different path, or the lack of a path, and thus has no choice but to leave the city.

Regardless, the film is fascinating and a visual marvel, breathtakingly shot and ceaselessly intriguing.

The list of interesting people who worked on this film is astonishing: Bergman regular Gunnel Lindblom plays the female lead; for art director Erik Aaes (who worked for Renoir, Cavalcanti, Dreyer, etc) it was his last film; regular Polanski collaborator Krzysztof Komeda wrote and performed the haunting score; and Brigitte Federspiel (Inger in ORDET) has a small role as Lindblom's sister.

Hunger was the first united Scandinavian co-production in history - financed equally by Sweden, Norway and Denmark with an even mix of artists from each country. It was an odd choice, presenting as it does a rather bleak and unflattering portrait of urban Scandinavian society, but also a film of significant artistic merit that reflected well on all three burgeoning film industries. These three countries continue to support their own home-grown artists, which is a way of guaranteeing that challenging but worthwhile work like Hunger will be created.