Turkish film AV:The Hunt tackles the topic of honour killing and it’s a gut punch of reality. After Ayse is caught with her lover, she is hunted down by her husband, his family and her own brother and father because she has brought dishonor on her family by sleeping with a man other than her husband. The fact that her husband is a raping, abusive piece of shit is of no consequence. Ayse cannot just get a divorce and she cannot be with anyone outside of her husband. She is now a woman on the run and she is being hunted down in the wilderness the same way a wild boar would be.
Billur Melis Koç is outstanding as Ayse. She is nothing more than a human being who wants to live a life free of fear and domination, but because she was born female, that does not seem to be in the cards for her. Alone and unable to turn to anyone for help, Ayse is in the woods trying to outsmart a group of men who have brought semiautomatic weapons and a dog to hunt her down and kill her, all for the honour of the family. The mere fact that this is a reality that women currently grapple with is gruesome enough, but to see Ayse be refused help at multiple turns simply because she is a woman on her own and that means she has done something “wrong” is mind boggling and heartbreaking.
As Ayse runs for her life, we are treated to a truly beautiful backdrop. The cinematography really highlights the natural beauty of the forest that she is running through and the score perfectly accompanies her fight for life and amps up tension in almost nerve wracking ways: a violin has never sounded so menacing. As she continually finds herself doing things that turn her into as much of an aggressor as the men hunting her, we get a very fast and dirty education on the toxic patriarchy that she lives under and this is what elevates AV:The Hunt to something more than just another exploitative romp through the woods.
Horror movies are always such a great mirror of societal failings and the ugly nature of humans that we can’t seem to shake no matter how hard evolution tries and watching Ayse face so many obstacles simply in an effort to escape an abusive marriage is a cold, chilling reality check. To be living in the year 2020 and know that it’s not outlandish to show the story of a woman who is constantly being told to suppress her own feelings and well being in order to pacify all of the men in her family is beyond ugly. Adding insult to injury, other women brought up under this particular brand of toxic masculinity are of no help to her. She is very alone in a world that truly does not care about her feelings. There seems to be no end to her suffering and this is exactly the note the film ends on. The non-ending may turn some viewers off, but it’s an inviting way to ponder on what the future holds for Ayse and other women like her. AV:The Hunt will stick with you for a while and that’s exactly what it should do.