Hymn of Hate (2018)
Director: Matt Kennard
Screenwriter: Matt Kennard
Starring: Russell Tovey, Thomas Turgoose, Andrew Knott
Hymn of Hate begins with the sound of a quiet swell of wind against grass, the black screen reading credits. The deep tones of a deftly composed war score welcome the opening shot of a camera tracking across a country field and revealing our two heroes about to reach the precipice of a hill. Some 26 seconds pass before a word is spoken, inviting interpretation of the various filmmaking elements so cautiously revealed in stages, beckoning us to feel each aspect in of itself. “Why would he send us out now?” one of them asks, introducing the point of the picture’s “us versus them” commentary from the off-set, inviting us to question who would send these poor men out to war. A further 15 seconds pass with the score reaching its crescendo right as the two characters urgently duck into a kneeling position. A quick and effective edit thrusts us into the action, introducing the characters and immediately drawing panic, asking us to wonder what it is they’re stopping for and what it is that could be so dangerous. This is war: uncertainty, anxiety, stress and panic.
It’s an incredibly composed opening from Matt Kennard, a director making his directorial debut but showing a maturity of a much more experienced man, and one that comes to define the picture and the director’s style for the following 9 minutes or so of fantastically orchestrated, carefully handled material.
‘Being Human’, Pride and Mindhorn star Russell Tovey and This Is England star Thomas Turgoose are the men introduced, the pair of immensely talented and highly respected British actors coming to play a huge role in influencing the outcome of Kennard’s tight but demanding script.
Each man elevates the material and is rightly given room to do so. Much as the opening sequence was composed and deliberate, so is each twist to the tale that comes thereafter, allowing us to witness a microcosm of the first world war through each of the lead performances and their characters’ interactions with a fallen German soldier they’ll find to have more in common with than their own superiors.
It’s a fantastically intricate portrait of a brief moment between rival officers that offers commentary on class within war and takes on the standardised hierarchical structure of our society, as well as pointing fingers towards us as viewers, asking “what of brexit?” And “what of racism?”
But most compellingly it is a force for empathy, the fantastic lead performances drawing us into the ultimately personal dialogue between fellow humans beings, the wardrobe, setting and in-camera decisions creating an atmosphere that never once steps into a realm of being disingenuous. This is a beautiful, moving picture delivered with skill and poise, its subject matter handled with maturity and care.
Hymn of Hate is an effective tribute to the lost lives of World War I in this the 100th anniversary year since its conclusion, and a truly affecting short film from a team of very talented filmmakers showing a class and respect beyond their years.