Av: The Hunt review – excellent survival thriller from Turkey

August 31, 2020
Alix Turner 0
Film, Film Reviews
4

Summary

A seamless blend of social commentary and action thriller in a setting where tradition conflicts with progress.

4

Summary

A seamless blend of social commentary and action thriller in a setting where tradition conflicts with progress.

Av: The Hunt was like many films I’ve seen before, and it was also unique: excellent. It is about Ayse (Billur Melis Koç), a young woman who wants to be free of her marriage, and how she is hunted by several (male) family members for the dishonor her “adultery” brings on them.

It is not unusual to see people being hunted in horror/thrillers, especially where the object of the hunt is female. Indeed the “damsel in distress” is such a frequent trope that it’s easy to become tired of it, so it’s gratifying to find films in which said damsel fights back. The modern example that Av: The Hunt (I’m just going to call it Av now, which means “hunt” anyway) is bound to be compared to is Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge; and there are definitely similarities in terms of the gender attitudes and the use of the outdoor setting. There are two key differences, though: Ayse doesn’t fight back out of anger or revenge, but simply in order to survive the experience and obtain her independence; and of course, the importance of family “honor” in Av. This latter I have not come across at all before in any contemporary thriller: more later.

Billur Melis Koç is impressive as Ayse: she has the energy needed to survive, but her face shows when exhaustion and despair catch up with her. The men seem to have been commissioned to “cleanse the family’s honor” by Ayse’s father, who we see only in some brief flashbacks that spur Ayse on her flight to Istanbul. Sedat (Ahmet Rifat Sungar) travels with a teenage cousin and Ayse’s husband, who are all committed to the cause to some degree (the husband feels humiliated and the Engin just wants to do a man’s duty), but Sedat is clearly the most fervent, full of vicious curses and battle cries. It’s easy to see these three as bad guys against an obvious victim, but there is enough variation amongst the hunters to highlight the different kinds of influence tradition and culture have had on the male sex in (parts of) Turkey. (That said, it’s also interesting – and sad – to hear that Ayse’s female friends have not been immune to the influence of tradition too.)

On the subject of geography, the sense of place – not just culture – is excellent in Av. From the opening in Ayse’s love nest with her new partner, via aerial shots of the town and then into the mountains and forests, the location is used to full effect, for both plot and cinematography. Because yes, there is indeed plot, not just running and swapping insults like many thrillers.

Director Emre Akay (who co-wrote Av with Deniz Cuylan) gives us a cat and mouse thriller which blends action and social commentary smoothly: neither slow down for the other, and it is clear to see that survival films of this sort can fit comfortably in any contemporary culture. In fact, I would suggest that it is a positive move for cultures where women are still treated as belonging to men in some way if these issues are presented on screen: it is so easy to assume old traditions are gone if we don’t see them, and films are a wide-reaching way to increase awareness.

This review was filed from FrightFest 2020. You can check out all of our coverage on the festival by clicking these words.


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