Background : Written and directed by Norwegian director André Øvredal, Trollhunter is a mockumentary modern realization of old Norwegian folktales. The film takes old stories of trolls — such as trolls under bridges, trolls smelling the blood of a Christian man, and trolls having big noses — and acts as if they are real. Many ideas that are played with in the film deal with religion, and what it is to be a Christian (1), in an ironically humorous way. Christianity in Norway is not terribly big, most people belong to the state church, but only about 32% of Norwegians claim to believe in God, and only 32% practice their faith (2). So, this is not a film meant to be about Christianity; rather, it is about trolls. With this in mind, however, the film does deal with the question of what it is to be Christian, and given the inconsistency of Christian culture in Norway, this can be an understandable topic to be dealt with.
Audience : The film is considered a kind of dark comedy by its Norwegian audience, starring a few well known Norwegian comedians and dealing with ideas, such as well known folktales and other local cultural references, which, to its original audience, would be drily humorous. However, while still ironically amusing, to foreign audiences the film is more of a kind of horror/fantasy adventure film. So, keep this in mind; there’s nothing terribly gruesome, but it is not for everyone. This is also a found-footage film (similar to Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Apollo 18, etc.), so this may scare off a few. But, do not let this lead you away too much — I personally cannot stand this style of film, as it often feels cheap and lazy — this film is not the case, however. It’s not nearly as shaky as Blair Witch Project, and most of the time it comes off as being well made, high quality material. This is also a very fun film. It may not be for terribly young audiences, as it does contain scenes that could be frightening, but most high-school and up should quite enjoy it.
Fallen Warning : As I have already mentioned, this is a horror kind of film, about a fallen cursed world. There is some cursing (though subtitled), and there are big ugly monsters, and the blood of a Christian man! Not to forget the poor little sheep! — and bears.
Brief Summary : Three college students go out to film bear hunters and the strange bear deaths that have been occurring, but instead they find a weird smelly man that hunts trolls.
Analysis : (Spoilers) The film brings up a few key points pertaining to Christianity. In general it simply plays on troll mythology in this manner: such as smelling the blood of a Christian man, little sheep, and some other lesser (especially to Americans) known stories. However, there is some philosophical inquiry going on for people to chew on. Firstly, there is this question of what it is to be a Christian. The team’s cameraman is the main target for this one, who hides his Christian identity until it is too late. For, after the team is forced into a corner to hide from sleeping trolls, it is his praying and declaring of Christ as Lord that awakens them to their presence, which thus brings him upon death. And, shortly following this scene, still upset over their friend’s death, the remaining two resent over the fact of why he didn’t just say he was Christian: how his honesty and openness would have saved him. Despite this however, they still continue on. The replacement they then get for him is a Muslim, who believes in God but not the Christian Triune God. Though, we are never given any full telling whether this attracts the trolls or not, the question is certainly laid on the table of the identity of how true (to troll standards at least) the Islamic Allah is.
To go along with this question of identity and open Christian faith, another examination that I found in the film is a question of Christian persecution: the whole thing playing like a satire of modern Christian persecution. For, about 75 to 85 percent of all religious persecution is directed toward Christians (3), making Christians the most persecuted religious group in the world (4). However, anti-Christian violence is also one of the most underreported problems (5), often being covered up by other problems that are either far less important or not even a problem at all. Throughout the film you hear the radio reporting about issues such as the bear death mystery, which is only a fake issue used to make the troll problem disappear, or how global warming is changing the fauna, which faints in comparison to giant trolls destroying trees, cattle, and people. And, after their cameraman dies, when the team is arguing with the coverup guy, Finn, they mention how people are dying yet he’s acting as if it’s not even an issue. All of this underrated response to massive trolls rampaging through the country destroying things and killing people is an excellent expression of how Christian persecution is like a mob of trolls sniffing out Christians and devouring them like poor little sheep, even though it continues to be essentially ignored in many instances by the general public.
And, finally, one last philosophical comment that comes up (this could be a bit of a stretch though) is the identity of the Trollhunter, Hans. While he doesn’t really seem to be a Christian at all, he does play a big role in further questions that could be asked. For starters he seems to play a kind of Christly character, a superhero if you will; he faces the trolls of Christian death, Christian persecution, as a lone savior giving his life to save others. He blasts music praising Christ to attract their attention, and, in a sense, becoming or disguises himself as a Christian to defeat the beasts. Yet, in spite of all of this, he is also saddened by killing them: a contrast to Christ calling out for forgiveness of those who crucified Him. But, maybe I’m just throwing pockets of air with that last bit. With all of this together, however, while I would not say that this is a film entirely about Christianity, it does focus much of its efforts to peek into pertaining questions and thoughts. Regardless of whether you are a Christian or not, this is a fun film that I highly recommend.
“Then I saw mankind’s Lord come with great courage when he would mount upon me. Though I dared not against the Lord’s word bow or break, when I saw earth’s fields shake. All fiends I could have felled, but I stood fast. The young Hero stripped himself…and climbed upon the high gallows, bold in the sight of many, when he would free mankind.” – The Dream of the Rood
Further Recommendations : You may want to consider Apollo 18, Gran Torino, and also Of Gods and Men and Richard Wurmbrand’s Tortured for Christ. This film and any further recommendations can be bought at our store page. And, if you are interested in further readings on Christian persecution, then check out our links page.