Director: Ross Clarke
Cast: August Diehl, Jakob Cedergren, Sarah-sofie Boussnina
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The Birdcatcher tells the heartfelt tale of Esther, a would-be actress, who flees her hometown to evade Nazi persecution in 1940s Norway. Arriving at a small farm, and befriending a boy there, Esther is forced to hide her identity and integrate herself with the family that runs the farm – and supplies a small platoon of German troops residing there.
Showcasing stunning scenery, often adorned in a masterful use of light, The Birdcatcher’s rich filmmaking efforts are difficult to deny, boasting shot after shot of beauty. Whether following a bloodied Esther fleeing through endless, blinding snow, or silently cramped in a hay-scattered attic, the film is visually perfect.
Beneath that surface, however, the WWII drama fails – or never attempts – to pick a direction. Seemingly motiveless, Trond Morten Kirstensen’s script lacks focus and decisiveness, as the characters stride from one scene to the next, never arriving at their final
It falls to the lead stars to keep the audience absorbed. Played by Sarah-Sofie Boussnina, Esther has a wandering dreaminess that often bookends the intensity of her situation. It’s her brave, head-in-the-clouds musings, contrasted with her dangerous, uncomfortable reality, that keeps the film alive. While the family drama plays out well, it’s impossible not to see Ross Clarke’s historical drama as another in a long line of romanticised stories with a young, starry-eyed woman making the best of a bad situation.
Flanked by a nearly three-dimensional August Diehl as the Nazi ringleader, and Arthur Hakalahti giving a humbly robust turn as the farm’s underappreciated second son, it often feels as though the quality acting is failing to bring an aimless, even pretentious script to life. Amid a plethora of moody Nazi-occupation stories, The Birdcatcher certainly has the talent and cinematography to inspire, but relies heavily on the weight of its subject matter in order to provoke any thought at all.