Hanna (Joe Wright, 2011) combines quick-fire action scenes with intricately beautiful cinematography to create a dark, modern fairytale full of suspense and wicked delight. Raised in the snow-covered forests of Finland, Hanna has traverses the wilderness, speaks a myriad of different languages, hones her encyclopaedic knowledge, and has a number of aliases hidden up her sleeve. Most importantly, she has been trained to kill.
Her skills as a master hunter come into play in the opening sequence of the film, in her pursuit of a reindeer through the forest. This scene is one bookend of a pair that throws the film into a cyclical pattern of violence. In an introductory snapshot of the snow-covered landscape, the camera’s viewpoint is blurred in allusion to the adjustment of binoculars, or to imitate a focused line of sight. However subtle, this is the first indication that a pursuit is to take place. In quick succession a swan and a polar bear cub raise their heads, as if to suggest a disturbance in the environment. The air is still quiet as the camera pans onto our huntress, laying low and pointing a crossbow directly at the camera. Here, Wright shifts the dynamics of the film by transforming the camera – the commonly-uninvolved documenter – into prey. The viewer is now a part of the action; we are the hunted, and as such are victim to the building threat that Hanna poses.
This intense opening to the film, despite the violent killing of the reindeer and the threat posed to the viewer, makes us aware of the matter-of-fact necessity of Hannah’s kill, illustrated by her warm clothes and stripping of the animal. It adds to a confusion that is continued in the blurring of the animal and the hunter through interchanged eyelines, which are portrayed by the camera’s target swapping from one subject to the other. Combined with the obscuring of both Hannah and the reindeer behind the trees, especially when they both run to create a blur, this levels the two by giving the impression that both creatures are assimilated with their environment. Both creatures are there to survive, and both creatures belong in the natural landscape. In these ways, Hannah immediately undermines any human/ animal divide in terms of habitational boundaries, but also mirrors human and animal nature to emphasise the animality that lies within us all.
Hanna. Dir. Joe Wright. Focus Features, 2011