Hunters on a White Field (dir. Sarah Gyllenstierna)

By: Adam Freed

In her feature length debut Hunters on a White Field, Swedish director Sarah Gyllenstierna unwraps a wildly ambitious tale of masculinity, insecurity and bloodlust all gently provoking the raw instinctual energy of an animal in the crosshairs.  The glory of JAKT (Hunt) is that it does all of this while taking the time to mirror the simplicity of nature's effortless creation. An endeavor through which Gyllenstierna demonstrates an idyllic reverence for that natural world that is without question the product of countless days of location scouting and unending hours in anticipation of nature’s permissive nod to proceed. Cinematographer Josua Enblom earns highest possible marks for presenting the rustic and rugged wilderness with the keen eye of capturing gorgeously textured images as backdrops for the unthinkable.

Despite an outwardly simple premise, three men go on a hunting trip in rural Sweden, it is what bubbles beneath the thematic surface of Hunters on a White Field that make it an unquestioned success. Sarah Gyllenstiena’s film perfectly frames the intersection between the raw animalistic world and the darkest psychological impulses that urge men into the dizzying spiral of the toxic predatory mindset.   Masculine groupthink is explored by a triumvirate of similarly minded middle aged men who simultaneously engage in primordial sport from a diverse trilogy of perspectives.  Ardalan Esmaili (Alex), Magnus Krepper (Gregor) and Jens Hultén (Henrik) are all equally captivating as the film’s only characters in the way that all three seem to lovingly embrace their surroundings and proceed to gauge the quality of their existence upon their aptitude for the taking of animal life.  

While at first the hunting party enjoys a respectable modicum of success with fowl and then stag, it isn’t until the wilderness mysteriously goes quiet, of wind and wildlife, that the group devises what can only be described as an unthinkable solution.  The symbiotic relationship inherent between predator and prey. Hunters on a White Field allows audiences to explore this existence from both angles.  Of the three characters, it is Alex (Esmaili) who best captures the anti evolutionary themes as he initially seems rooted to the contemporary career world of account management, until slowly he casts this love affair aside when presented with an opportunity to extend their hunt for a few days.  While Alex allows himself to drift further from the banalities of civilization his embrace of the ancient world and of the natural order spirals him closer to the imminence of a binary result.  

Target Score 9/10 Thematically rich and visually stunning, Hunters on a White Field is instantly one of the year’s most pulse pounding films.  First time feature director Sarah Gyllenstierna blazes a brave trail through the Swedish wilderness to unveil a world that has long existed despite civilized society’s best attempts at its denial.

Hunters on a White Field was screened as part of the 2024 Tribeca International Film Festival.