Monday, 9 May 2011


Referring to my previous review, Hanna is proof that a bizarre film full of logical flaws can still make it big at the box office.

I knew just enough (which was still very little) about Hanna to have an instinctual feel that this would be a love-hate film for me. If I had known in advance that Hanna was a European film with a distinctly European feel, I would have guessed that this part of the filmmaking would fall into the love category. But I didn’t know that. Neither did I know that it would be a fairy tale, or that it would be such an odd film, which might fall into either love or hate. Or that the cinematography and score would be part of an overwhelming and unique stylistic vision, both of which fall generally into the love category, though in this case more because they wowed me than because they impressed me.

The mind-numbing, pounding loud music is clearly meant to make us feel small as we run away from the big bad wolf. There’s not much subtlety in Hanna, though some of the fairy tale allusions are more obvious than others (if you can imagine, it starts off as the story of a girl (Hanna) growing up with her father in a fairy tale house in the midst of a dark forest, utterly isolated from the rest of the world and its technological achievements, including electricity). As someone who grew up with the old German fairy tales and with countless nightmares about witches and wolves, Hanna felt to me like I was literally watching a nightmare. When, after the end credits, a voice announces “schlaf weiter” (sleep on), it blew me away (I thought I was the only one having a nightmare). Believe it or not, all of this also falls into the love category. As does the acting by all concerned (the big bad wolf is played by Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana is the father, and Hanna was impressively done by Saoirse Ronan).

So what is Hanna about, anyway, you ask? That would be telling. But any film depicting the story of a man training his 13-year-old daughter to be a lethal revenge machine, which then tries to convince us that this man loves his daughter and is somehow doing it for her own good, to protect her from the wolf (“one of you must die”) is in trouble from the start. And the end is worse than the beginning, though there is a brief illogical scene near the end in which Hanna says she is tired of hurting people or some such thing. It’s a very confusing sentiment under the circumstances (and given her training) and it is immediately belied, so I have no idea what to make of it.

Hanna is definitely a “Wow” film, and that’s a big plus, but it’s also a very violent film, as I suspected it would be, and that never impresses me. It impresses me even less when the most violent person in the film is a girl. From Mulan to the ‘girl with the dragon tattoo’ to Hanna, we are being shown that young women can fight just as well as men. Oh joy! What an achievement for gender equality! What I want to see is more films about young men who learn what most women know more instinctively than men: that fighting is pointless and achieves nothing of lasting value.

Hanna is the kind of film that deserves an even longer analysis (perhaps for a periodical), but I do not have the time for that this month. In the meantime, I am going to give Hanna a somewhat surprising ***+ for wowing me and freaking me out. My mug is up, but I’m not even going to glance inside.


  1. While not the kind of movie I would want to see again, I did think this was quite an impressive movie for many of the reasons that you mention. I was a little curious why you associate Cate Blanchett with the wolf. Did I miss a reference? I would have leaned toward her being the witch (there was postcard saying the witch was dead). There is often that somewhat motherly form of evil given to witches in the Grimm world, and I thought that was key here as well. I imagine that a central theme is a mixture of the identity problems and violence that the cold war era bequeathed to the next generations. It also reminded me of the kinds of parenting issues explored with maddening inconsistency (or paradoxes) in the TV series Alias. I'll echo the ***1/2 stars in spite of the logical problems you mention (the worst was the sudden generation of computer skills).

  2. This was a epic movie and I don't really think that it mattered if Hanna was a boy or a girl. Gender equality I mean seriously that wasn't even close to the subject of the movie. And saying that fighting is pointless is stupid if no one fought for rights African Americans would still be enslaved. And if we didn't fight for survival we would be all be dead you just went way off when you wrote paragraph 4.