It is very likely that many of us do not notice that 2018 marks 100 years since the end of World War I. Why should such a moment, however, not be ignored by all humanity? Maybe precisely because the general tendency to perceive the massacres that shook the past century as distant fictions continues to cause general desensitization which is responsible for the atrocities of the present. People often forget that history is the toughest, but also the most efficient teacher that can show us how to avoid a catastrophic future. Perhaps this is the main subtext idea of ’The Hun‘, a short film which not only depicts a brief overview of life from the trench warfare, haunted by the spectre of death, but also an inconvenient lesson about the vocation of self-destruction of a world obsessed with power. Creating a tense atmosphere, inspired by the great modern war films (such as ‘Saving Private Ryan’ or ‘Hacksaw Ridge’), ornamented with quasi-mythical inflections similar to Dino Buzzatti’s ‘The Tartar Steppe’ or to Ismail Kadare’s novels, Tyler Mendelson manages to combine real historical events with the aura of legends and ancient superstitions, creating a profound and fresh artistic product in which the boundary between reality and afterlife fades. Although the complexity of the human relationships in this short film is restricted by the relatively restrained length of the cinematographic product, the dense narrative layer and the unostentatious well-dosed dramatic content of the director’s vision create a balanced visual grammar resonating with the magnetic bizarreness of ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ film.
Sheltered in the First World War trenches, waiting for German resistance, some US soldiers talk about the tough battle experience, but also about the new mission of Private MacDonald, who is the company’s new message runner. Beyond the everyday details of their agitated existence, the soldiers’ discussion focuses on an intriguing historical detail: after Attila the Hun who started an attack against the Roman Empire was about to win the battle, he retreated from the field, still leaving behind the spectre of an imminent bloody confrontation. This historical detail, placed at the edge between reality and fiction, starts obsessing MacDonald, whose perception begins to alter until he passes without realizing in a hallucinating universe.
Without being a highly descriptive cinematic project that focuses exclusively on frames capturing war scenes, ‘The Hun’ excels through a tense atmosphere resulting from a well-designed structural homogeneity between the visual dimension that privileges close-ups and grave acoustic inflections. Indeed, despite the historical pretext, Tyler Mendelson’s film is an admirable metaphor of the absurdity of the war, but also of the fragility of the human being for whom escape into fiction can be an existential surrogate far more harmless than the atrocities of objective reality. Even though the details of subtlety about the way the mythical world penetrates MacDonald’s reality could have been more nuanced, ‘The Hun’ remains an interesting cinematic experiment which, although it brings to our attention a sample of the absurd violence of the century past, fulfills its cathartic role.