Film review: Hunger (1966)

(Revised review with added screenshots) Hunger or the original title Sult is a powerful drama in black and white, with Norwegian dialogue. I saw it with English subtitles. At times felt like a comedy, I laughed a lot! A co-production between Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

Not to be confused with the 2008 prison movie of the same name, or the 1983 movie.

It takes a little while to get going, but definitely one of the best older Scandinavian pictures I’ve ever seen, it still felt fresh. Actually one of the best I’ve seen in 2010, and I’ve seen many different movies. Based on the acclaimed novel from 1890 by the Norwegian Nobel Prize-winning author Knut Hamson.

The story is quite simple, you might think its a one-trick-story of someone hungry, and that's that, however there is more to it than just starvation. Set in the late 1800s, a struggling author is wandering around the streets and has no money left for food. A man who has nothing, who pretends he has everything.

I felt sympathy for him, because he is in such pain. The country boy lost in the city having an anger towards the urban setting. I think it’s a story about pride and denial. The hungrier he gets, the more he distances himself from reality.
In an interview on the dvd, the granddaughter of Hamson says the character is looking for himself.

There are many memorable scenes, so its tough to just pick a handful:

On the dvd, the director Henning Carlsen explains how the audience see everything from the subjective point of view of the main character. Something Scorsese also did in Taxi Driver (1976). In both cases, the first person angle means we feel we are in the protagonist's shoes. The director talks about how they struggled to recreate 1890 in the year 1965. I think they did a great job.

The acting by the main unnamed character is what brings the story alive, Per Oscarsson is very convincing, he deservingly won a best actor award at Cannes for his role. He probably seems desperate or even amusing to the viewers or the people he meets on his journey, to me a bit like the humour in some of Kafka’s stories. Hunger is quite a dark, psychological character study. But also a very powerful story with comedy moments, particularly funny when talking to the guy on the park bench, and when he knocks on people's doors. It had a lasting impression on me, I’ll never forget Hunger.

Hard to understand why only 1070 people have rated this film on IMDB!!! Kept me glued to the screen, on my 3rd viewing as well! Really drew me into a different world much like Scorsese's Taxi Driver achieved. I think I'm going to have to add Hunger (1966) to my favourite films ( :

Thanks for reading, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Anyway, highly recommended foreign language cinema.

7.8 on IMDB




  1. I must be seeing it, then.

  2. It was a real emotional rollercoaster for me and I'm sure other viewers, you really get under his skin, hope you like it ( :

  3. I have never heard of this film but you make a very persuasive case for watching it.

  4. @Paul Tobin: Thanks for stopping by. A case where a quick summary of Hungry really doesn't do the film justice. In that category of loner stories together with Day of the jackal (1973), Scorsese's Taxi driver, etc.


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