Carlos Saura's penetrating and increasingly violent "The Hunt" … should give the New York cinema intelligentsia a new regard for filmmaking in Spain.
What is surprising about it is that it cloaks in its lean and cruel account of quarreling and ultimate murdering among four men on a routine rabbit hunt a cynical innuendo of what has happened to some middle-aged men of the generation that fought for Franco in the Spanish Civil War….
To be sure, the average outsider might not immediately perceive in the seemingly nondescript environment and the accumulating details of the hunt all the subtle hints and signals that colloquially identify these men as veteran Falangists and their background as the civil war.
But any Spaniard familiar with his nation's history and geography should recognize the dry and barren region in which these sportsmen arrive in a jeep for a few days of rabbit-shooting as an area southwest of Madrid where some of the bitterest battles of the civil war were fought.
Any Spaniard should catch in a twinkling the significance in the fact that one of the men is nursing (or favoring) an old wound, that another is carrying a pistol of the type that the Germans used in the civil war and yet another is revealed as having good connections with the Government. These men are Franco veterans—all except the youngest in the group, who is evidently the son of a veteran—and they are stricken with morbidity.
This is the daring implication that Mr. Saura has to make: That men who have enjoyed some successes, have evidently lived comfortably (able to indulge themselves in hunting) are now bitter, degenerate and cruel, suspicious and distrustful of one another, avid to shoot and kill—or, as in the case of one of them, to withdraw in a mood of jealousy and hate.
Mr. Saura imparts his drama—his allegory, as it were, of war and of men fighting against their brothers—in some horrifyingly realistic scenes of men handling guns, shooting rabbits as the terrified creatures scurry up the hills, backing in the sun, grimly quarreling and finally blasting away at one another in frenzied duels. Tension grows, violence trembles and finally disaster bursts.
"The Hunt" is a powerful picture….
Bosley Crowther, "Film Festival: 'The Hunt'," in The New York Times (© 1966 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 20, 1966, p. 39.