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Girl, uninterrupted

.

Filled with mystery: Strip this film of its secret and you have a mood piece about a girl stepping out of her oyster shell and hearing the music

Hanna (English)

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana

Director: Joe Wright

Saoirse Ronan, who plays Hanna, has pale skin and paler eyebrows that are practically invisible. The effect is that of a forehead disappearing into a pair of pale-blue eyes — like a nearly complete version of a human simulacrum being stitched up in a Frankensteinian factory. (Only as the film nears its end and we learn who Hanna really is do we realise how astutely this aspect of the actress has been employed.)

Even her talents are ridiculously inhuman. Not so much raised as trained by her father (Eric Bana) — in the middle of a pristine nowhere that the film locates as “60 miles below the Arctic Circle” — Hanna is a polyglot, a storehouse of bookish knowledge (her father reads to her daily from an encyclopaedia), and a natural-born killer capable of assuming various identities, each with elaborate backgrounds embroidered with non-existent friends and pet dogs named Trudy.

But just as we begin to wonder if Hanna is indeed as inhuman as her spectral appearance suggests, she evinces those most humanlike of traits, curiosity and Then the movie moves to Morocco, baked and browned by a sun unknown to Hanna from her polar outpost, and director Joe Wright stages a terrific scene where Hanna is besieged by the mundane miracles of modern living — a ceiling fan whirrs ominously and fluorescent lights begin to flicker as if by magic (though actually by a switch).

At this point, Hanna is poised as a gender-bending variation on the archetypal story of Tarzan and Mowgli and it appears that we will be witnessing the humanising of Hanna. But that angle will not account for the arts her father so arduously instilled in her, so the film takes a detour into Bourne territory, plunging us into the mystery of why Hanna is the way she is.

The action sequences aren't bad, but it's the silent moments with Hanna that stay with you. Strip the film of its secret and you have a quietly exhilarating mood piece about a girl stepping out of her oyster shell and finally hearing the music.

BARADWAJ RANGAN

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