Troll Hunter

Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren), a Norwegian film from 2010, is a dark fantasy story which uses the ‘found footage’ style (popularised by the Blair Witch Project) to explore the world of trolls in modern Norway. It is a quirky fun film which weaves fieldwork, folklore, conspiracies and the Norwegian landscape together. The story follows three students whose research on bear poaching brings them in contact with Hans, who works for the Norwegian Government’s clandestine organisation (Troll Security Agency) that controls the troll population.

Conceptually, it explores how folk creatures would be dealt with if they were real and in doing so builds on legend while applying modern understandings. For example, UV lights reacts with trolls’ calcium making them solid, or exploding, which provides an explanation for why trolls turn into stone in daylight. However, this process also undermines and dismisses modern knowledge by reintroducing the folkloric into the present. One way Hans checks for troll activity is to examine rocks in the landscapes, the result of trolls battling each other,  for any recent changes. This builds on tradition which explains natural features, such as stray rocks or glacial erratics, as being the work of supernatural  being (in the case of Ireland giants are responsible for random patterns of odd rocks), which counters geographic explanations of physical forces that  shape the landscape. When legend becomes real, realities and accepted understanding become fractured in different ways, but they are also brought to bear on the legendary.

Elements of the research process are part of the story, even if told in broad strokes. Firstly, the students respond to what they find in the field, abandoning the bear poaching story to pursue the much more enticing, and (fatally) dangerous, troll scoop. While obviously being a dramatic and unrealistic change is does capture a sense of what it is to be researching and the necessity to make decisions that have consequences for your work, as a result of what you find. Secondly, there are questions of access and permissions with Hans initially refusing to talk to them and warning them off, only for him to later agree that they can film him and his work, once they agree to do what he says (including covering themselves in Troll ‘scent’); however, Han’s superior Finn Haugen is not happy with the project and tries on several occasions to have them stop. In realty this is a ethical nightmare, but it does show how greater questions concerning the importance of revealing an important story can come in conflict with practical and ethical issues.  Thirdly, they persist. Even when one of them is killed, they continue, once a new camera-person arrives that is!

The Norwegian landscape is also a prominent aspect of the film, with shots taking in fjords, tundra and forestry, giving a sense of the Scandinavian lands. The rough and sparsely populated regions  are set up well as the potential locations for trolls.

Whether you are curious about trolls or some of what I said resonates with you, I’d firmly recommend the film. Perhaps, it may inspire you to go on your own folkloric or Scandinavian adventure?

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