A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 305 – Hogfather

Hogfather – December 30th, 2010

After Christmas, when we were quite sure we’d finished up every Christmas movie in our possession and had moved on to other things, we discovered this sitting in a stack in the bedroom. Somehow we’d missed even putting it into our master spreadsheet, so when I’d gone through to note all the Christmas movies so we could tally them up and plan for the season, I hadn’t figured it into our plans. And then there it was, sitting there with some of our other things, taunting us with its 3 hour running time and Discworld Christmas plot. Since we’re well under a year left in the project (unless we get a sudden influx of over 100 more movies, which I don’t foresee happening), we didn’t want to leave this for next year, and it would be silly to watch it in, say, April. Thus, we have extended the holiday season a bit.

I read the book this is based on back when I was in college. I remember quite distinctly that I had been having an absolutely hellish month. I was worried about my classes. I was worried about my job. I was worried about everything. I was depressed, to put it frankly, and then one day I got back to my room in my dorm and this book was sitting in front of my door. Inside was a note from a good friend, telling me she’d read it so I could take my time with it and she hoped it would help in some small way. And it did. The book itself was fantastic and having a friend care was even better. So this one holds a special place for me. It was a bright point in a horrible time.

At its root, this is a story about belief and the purpose it serves. It taps into myths of childhood and twists them in the way that Terry Pratchett is so famous for. It’s about Christmas, or the Discworld version of it, but it’s mostly about mythology and folklore and why it’s important to us as humans. It’s all about storytelling, which I love about Pratchett. He likes to write about why people do the things they do and the importance of stories in daily life. And this one is made to be a big one. It’s about the assassination of the Hogfather, an anthropomorphic representation of the winter season and hope for the return of the sun after the solstice and all of the things that come along with this time of year. In the story he’s evolved quite a bit in the time he’s been around, shifting from a boar, killed as a sacrifice to ensure the rising of the sun, to a pig-faced man in a red and white fur suit who drives a sleigh drawn by pigs and delivers presents and pork products on Hogswatch Eve. And there are forces out there who want him dead.

The thing about this movie is that it doesn’t have the benefit of the considerable amount of explanation possible in a book. And it depends entirely on the vast amount of worldbuilding that Mr. Pratchett has done with the Discworld. If you were to watch this movie with little or no prior knowledge of the world it’s set in, I think you’d be rather lost in it. There’s very little in the way of explanation of who Susan is until rather late in the movie, when she explains that Death adopted her mother and took her father as an apprentice and they fell in love and she’s somehow inherited certain abilities. In the books, if you’ve read about Death and his adopted daughter and Susan’s childhood and all that, you know enough about her to know her place in the grander scheme of the world. If not, well, she’s still a rather kick-ass lady, but the finer points of just why and how she manages to kick so much ass and be who she is are lost. Which is a pity. But this is a movie made for fans. It’s a movie made for people who know the world and will be amused by the cameos of Nobby and Visit and the Death of Rats.

All things considered, the movie does do a good job of presenting the story and the world. It’s not that it doesn’t do its job. It’s that the book it’s based on also expects you to know things and the things you don’t know are explained in narration or footnotes and you can’t footnote a movie. It’s a case of the medium not being able to hold much more than the story it’s telling without getting overburdened. And I don’t fault it for that. It never tried to and I think if it had it would have been a mess. Better to be a movie for people who know and love the world and people who are willing to jump in without prior knowledge for a bizarre alternate Christmas adventure, with assassins and pigs and a skeleton in a Santa suit and a pile of teeth. I’m sorry we didn’t remember we had this in time for Christmas, but from now on I plan on making it part of our regular seasonal viewing.

December 30, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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