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Friday, November 09, 2012

Musing Pictures: A Hijacking (2012)

I caught this wonderful Danish film at the tail end of the 2012 AFI film fest.  It is what it claims to be: a film about the hijacking of a Danish ship, and about the subsequent negotiations between the pirates and the company's CEO, Peter Ludvigsen (played stoically by Soren Malling).

I particularly loved the work of the sound department, Morten Green and Oskar Skriver, who introduce auditory elements that are at once very real, and very new to cinema.

There are quite a few scenes in which the Peter speaks on the phone with the man claiming to be the pirate's "negotiator", a shrewd manipulator named Omar (who, as yet, is not credited on IMDB, which only lists a cast of six, although there were at least a dozen speaking roles in the film).  These conversations are had on a speaker-phone, so the rest of the response team in Denmark can listen in, and presumably, so that we can listen in as well.  They are tense, of course, and they look pretty much standard, as far as tense hostage negotiation phone calls go.  But they sound very different.

This is a long-distance call, probably via satellite, to a ship in the Indian Ocean, and we hear that vast distance.  The calls are full of pops, whistles and static.  Most notably, every time Peter speaks, he hears his own echo a second later (something we may be familiar with as an occasional glitch with our cell phones, or with Skype).  The absolutely amazing part of it, though, is that we can still understand what Peter is saying.  The choice of sounds, and the way they're mixed together make it so that despite the noise, the voices are clear.  This, to me, is a major accomplishment for the sound team, and something I've never heard in a movie before.  Usually, voices are clear and there isn't much noise, or the noise is apparent and it's hard to make out the words being spoken.

Be nice to see what the director, Tobias Lindholm, comes up with next... I hope he keeps the same sound team!

-AzS

ADDED 6/25/2013: I wrote an additional musing about "A Hijacking" around the time of its US theatrical release, published at Musing Pictures' new home, MaxIt Magazine: http://maxitmagazine.com/columns/musing-pictures/524-a-hijacking

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