Hatching (2022)


(4 stars out of 5)

Hatching (2022) Directed by Hanna Bergholm

We cannot always succumb to the assumption that every coming-of-age horror film is a metaphorical account of the vexatious stage of transition from childhood to the complicated adolescent puberty. However obvious the truisms may be, I feel that we cannot confine ourselves to the typically literal.

This Finnish film instrumentally uses all the paraphernalia surrounding the system of making allegorical horror, yet its thematically explicit juxtapositions simulate something more than simply the figurative relationship between grotesque metamorphosis and the organic hormonal evolution of an adolescent. Hatching with its regurgitating aggressiveness does not stall on adolescent confusion and the symbolism of anatomical transmutation, it makes the most of its body horror narrative and hyperbolizes its seemingly univocal message into a terrifyingly evocative cinematic polysemy.

As the feature debut of Finnish director Hanna Bergholm, it is naturally and inevitably complicit with certain artistic impulses; usually the inordinate passion for making a first feature generates a virginal need to want to say so much in a single film, as if one were to put one’s whole voice and soul into believing in the possibility that it is one’s first and last film. Consequently, this debut brimming with ideas and ravenous to convey them with cinematic fervency engenders multiple imperfections, unusual imperfections that ironically shape the film with an amorphous structure that uncannily makes its undecided symbology work.

I feel more comfortable with categorizing it into three sections, part coming-of-age, part family drama and part horror fairy tale, all three equally bizarre. These three forms from my perspective never communicate symbiotically, but I also don’t think the filmmakers had any intention of unifying them into a linear, classic narrative. That peculiarity is what with bold exaggeration makes their themes extraordinary, even though we as an audience are aware of their implausibilities. The disguise it wears follows certain deceptive patterns but never pretends to reach an exact consensus on where it wants to go with its metaphors. Personally I think the allusive monstrosity and its emotionally resonant fantastique go more for an insidious satire on the portrait of a perfect family.

This pretentiously immaculate family is tinged in a plastic, digital, modern aesthetic, and the iconoclastic use of a crow to violate and deform the apparently idyllic textures of this family shatters the scheme and falsehoods, unveiling a dysfunctional family that has an overwhelmingly traumatic effect on the protagonist of this film. The gymnastic and reserved twelve-year-old Tinja undergoes a whole process of intrinsic and extrinsic self-discovery in this plot that feeds on oddities. The delicate and fearful girl is played with revealing dramatic confidence by Siiri Solalinna and next to her probably the most essential character in this narrative the girl’s over-demanding, vain and toxic mother, played with vehement insistence by Sophia Heikkilä. Let’s say that they are the sine qua non condition for the external and internal metaphors to work complexly. The transformative monster or the abstract hybridization of the non-human character in question, feeding voraciously on the non-physical violence that the mother exerts on the girl, is a parallel action that manages to uncover pathos that exhaustively engages us to think with empathy.

The first thing that came to my mind, interpreting its literalness, were the expressive similarities in a disturbing use of schemes and themes that suggest metamorphosis as the recreation of the tragic capacity of human beings to adapt to everything, even if the conditions are aberrant or degrading, something like a more quotidian but still spine-chillingly Kafkaesque vision, instead of placing the symbolic focus on the unattainability of individual longings in a rigid and despotic society, the focus shifts with the same essence but to the homes of the bourgeoisie. The ambiguous issues of the events are the circumstances that will define the fate of the characters even if they lead to madness, or cling to their former condition even if this entails a risk to their survival.

Hatching resurrects the tradition of artisanal special effects and showcases them in all their glory. It has the exuberant luxury of having animatronics expert Gustav Hoegen, a stupendous designer who has the masterful talent to conceive with his hands a creepy creature that manages to thrill us as well as inspire compassion. The lost art of using puppets is also the art of giving life to inanimate creatures with the same attention to gestures and vivid reaction of emotions that actors must have in front of the cameras. And I must say that the end result of this painstaking work is mind-bogglingly laudable.

It’s practically a certainty that this film will generate divisive positions as to whether its proficient intentions were simple aesthetic and metaphorical fascination or were really at their most substantially creative. In my individual view I’m left with its dark poetry and formal depth, contrivances that works explicitly well and without ostentation. Hatching is a brutal dynamic that makes you feel when you least expect it and makes you live perplexities that only a genre like horror can make you experience.

Matteo Bedon
About Author

When I'm not watching and studying films, I'm writing about them.
Part-time essayist and full-time film critic.