The Hunter


Filmed during the months leading up to the 2009 presidential election in Iran, The Hunter still seethes with fury—and anticipates the blood that would spill after the vote. Rafi Pitts’s oblique fourth feature opens with a clang of electric guitars and a 1980 photograph of Revolutionary Guards on motorcycles about to run over an upside-down U.S. flag. The din soon ends as we see Ali (Pitts, haunted and hollow) loading a rifle in the woods. The taciturn graveyard-shift warehouse security guard, recently released from jail for a never-specified crime, shuttles between work and home via Tehran’s clogged highways while listening to Ayatollah Khamenei on the car radio. To avenge the deaths of his beloved wife and six-year-old daughter, killed during off-screen protests, Ali takes out two cops sniper-style and flees to a forest in the north. Pitts, who was born in 1967 in Iran and fled the country in 1981 for England, and cinematographer Mohammad Davudi frequently frame Ali in striking long shots: The protagonist is dwarfed by his surroundings, whether the labyrinthine entrance to his apartment building or the steep dirt incline he descends after killing the police officers. The open spaces stifle just as much as the claustrophobic hearing rooms and stairwells do in this season’s other absorbing Iranian drama, Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation.