FILM | Breathe in, breathe out

Monday, 13 June 2011

One of the very few movies I've gone to watch at the cinema recently was Hanna. Starring Saoirse Ronan (the little girl from Atonement, now seriously grown up), Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett, it had a lot of potential on paper. Directed by Joe Wright (who directed Ronan in Atonement), the film is a fast paced revenge thriller with a twist. Wright has stated that he was partly influenced by surrealist filmmaker David Lynch (famous for films such as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man and Mulholland Drive)

There were two main elements of the movie that I loved the most; firstly the breathtaking sets. The film was shot where it was set, in the snowy wastes of Northern Finland, on a frozen lake. Temperatures dropped at points to -33 degrees celcius - any discomfort or coldness on the actors' faces is most definitely real. Ronan herself commented that "Finland did bring out the fairy tale aspects of the story. We were shooting on a frozen lake, surrounded by pine trees covered in snow."

One of my favourite scenes (part of which you can see in the screenshots I've taken from the trailer above) is in an abandoned amusement park that actually exists, rather than a set: 'Spreepark' in Berlin, which I am desperate to visit for photography. These scenes were so frighteningly beautiful in the best way possible, one of my favourites was as Hanna walks through the mist, dwarfed by giant replicas of prehistoric animals. The action scenes are quick, brutal and occasionally bloody, and are impressive without the need for special effects and CGI - they give the impression of viciously well-trained, endlessly rehearsed hand-to-hand combat rather than unrealistic bullet-dodging and rule-bending manouvres. And as well as all of this, the cinematography and camera work are impeccably beautiful, inventively and creatively shot and innovatively produced - though sometimes they can induce a few feelings of motion sickness!

One of the most intruiging elements of the film for me was the mix of an obviously action-based 'Bourne' style narrative with a very touching portrayal of an unusual girl's discovery of life outside her narrow world. The introduction of the typical 'Stupid American' stereotype seems cliched at first, but develops into a moving and explorative relationship (of course played out under the pressure of being chased by a gang of violent men with murderous intent). Scenes with Sophie, played by Jessica Barden, show characteristics aside from ruthless violence from Hanna, and allow the viewer to see for the first time the naivety and youth of a girl who has been brought up simply to kill, but has never experienced a normal life and desperately wants it. I thought this, mixed with the introduction of Grimm's Fairytales references (the upside down mushroom house was probably one of the most interesting sets I've seen in a recent film) allowed the film to grow from bounding action adventure to an exploration of a girl growing up and serving the specific purpose she was not just born, but created for.

My other favourite element of the film was the score, written by the Chemical Brothers. I've been a fan of their studio work for a while, but the Hanna soundtrack is altogether in another league. Booming bass and synths blast out unapologetically, bold and decidedly modern. I'm glad that Wright chose to hire the electronica duo for a more modern and unusual musical score, rather than reverting to a typical classical score. The music completely makes the film in my eyes (ears?) and fits perfectly with each scene so as to be opressive and dominating in some, but blend seamlessly with the narrative in others. I'm definitely tempted to download it to listen to as a standalone album. [Listen to it here]

All in all, I'd definitely reccommend that you go and see this film, even if just to get a look at some beautiful landscapes, good glances of Eric Bana with a beard and dispel the hate of the 'girl from Atonement who ruins everything', because Ronan is seriously great in this film.
 Having deducted half a point for some slightly overbearing/try hard camera angles (if I'm being fussy), Hanna gets an overall score of 4.5/5 from me.

EDIT: Also check out the official website for the movie, flip the switch and click on everything that looks clickable. I love immersion sites like this; they've set up links that take you to new pages as if you're looking through someone's computer.


  1. I saw Hanna too, it was really cool and the music was awesome. That amusement park impressed me as well, definitely want to visit it!

  2. Hells yes to Spreepark! I'm so looking forwards to trying to get into it this summer. Hanna looks pretty damn good, I was put of by being sold an average action film but it looks pretty amazing. I'm a sucker for a good looking film.

  3. Like the sound of this....inspired by Lynch, sotta be worth a look.