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“Mankind produces different loves – among them the one that seeks to preserve its love untouched, the one that seeks to break it and the one that worships with the kill.”
A.L. Kennedy “On Bullfighting”
“Il semble qu’il n’y a pas de raison pour nous, mais il y a une raison pour lui. Et s’il y a une raison pour lui, nous devons pouvoir le comprendre. Je ne crois pas, moi, qu’un homme puisse être different des autres hommes au point d’avoir des raisons totalement incompréhensibles.”
Jean Giono, “Un Roi sans Divertissement”
ABOUT THE FILM
The documentary captures the sensorial experience of a stag hunt. Special attention is given to the sound of the forest, with the barking of the hounds and the playing of the horns. The film takes place in the forest of Tronçais, in central France, during the hunting season. With long shots of the forest, the close-ups of the dogs, riders and, ultimately, the killed animal, the camera captures the living and the dead, that remain tragically intertwined.
Estelle Eonnet – Filmmaker, Producer
Ben Silvestre – Sound recordist
Louis Jaubert de Beaujeu – Sound editor
Autumn has fallen on the forest. The hunting season officially begins with a mass in the nearby church for the hounds. One dog is brought into the church for the ceremony. The hunting-horns ring as the assembly leaves the church. The riders then gather in the forest for the first official hunt of the year. The dogs are launched in a chosen direction. Suddenly the forest is filled with their yelps and calls. The riders scream out to encourage them, sounding the horn far and wide, to let the other hunters know what is happening at the heart of the hunt.
The dogs, with their constant barking, are the only link between the world of men and that of the stag. They alone can follow its path. Their barks allow the riders to know whether the trail is strong or whether the stag has managed to fool the dogs and lose them.
Many followers listen from the forest paths, hoping to glimpse the chosen stag, and to help the riders guide the dogs to it.
The stag has been followed successfully and stands, exhausted, amongst the barking hounds. The riders arrive from all ends of the forest. The hunting-horns call the riders to the scene. The dogs bark even more loudly than before.
One of the riders gets down from his horse, knife in hand, and walks towards the standing animal. The stag is cut open and falls to the ground. Faced with this death, the dogs are silent, the forest somehow becoming a sacred place, where life and death are tragically intertwined, right in front of us. The riders take off their hats in respect.
The dead stag is pulled to the side. A volunteer begins skinning it and breaking body the carcass, while the hunters gather over a bottle of wine and picnic to talk about the hunt. The dogs are kept to the side by the master of the hounds, and counted, to make sure that none are missing.
The pieces of meat are amassed into a pile on the floor and the skin of the stag, still attached to its head, is placed on top of it. The dogs are brought to face the reconstructed stag. The hunters, finishing their drinks, come over. The hunting-horns are played, retracing the different moments of the day’s hunt, while one of the helpers moves the head of the stag to and fro, as though it were still alive.
As the hunting-horns stop playing, the kennel huntsman moves the head and skin away, and the dogs rush to devour the amassed morsels of meat. They growl and yelp as they fight over the pieces, crunching on bones. Within minutes, there is no more trace of the animal. The hunt has come to an end.
Access and challenges.
Access to film a stag hunt is a constant negotiation. It can be a dangerous experience, with members of the hunting association injuring themselves on horseback. The filmmaker understands the sensitivity of the subject and the general policy not to have cameras near the hunt when the stag is put to death. The crew respects the sensibilities of all parties involved.