How Heavy This Hammer
How Heavy This Hammer belies its rather grand title in providing a sharp, short look at a very ordinary man. This Canadian micro-budget drama is written and directed by Kazik Radwanski, who shows an exceptional talent for capturing the tone of everyday life and its quotidian rhythms. Whereas many filmmakers who try to create a socially realistic film end up piling on the gloom and misery, Hammer does not take this path of least resistance and instead rewards the viewer with a seemingly effortless ability to fully manifest reality, rather than simply channel it.
Hammer’s story follows a family man named Erwin (a faultless Erwin Van Cotthem) as he starts to find his mundane routine stifling, with him preferring to sit like a statue in front of his computer having virtual “battles” with his band of Vikings, cuddle with his equally indolent pet dogs or occasionally revving his great bulk into movement for a game of rugby with his old boys’ team. Erwin’s soft Belgian accent gives him a sense of mild alienation from the other people in this film, including even his hands-on wife (Kate Ashley), who struggles to probe any answers out of him over his increasingly worrying sleep habits. Their two sons are generally well-behaved but it seems Erwin responds to them more as peers than as children, whether it’s him tackling them a little too hard in rugby practice or having competitive bouts when they match their fantasy armies against each other.
The film takes an elliptic turn midway that uproots Erwin’s routine, but it questions how much this monolith of a man has the capacity to change and face his real-life challenges head-on. It’s anything but melodramatic though; characters don’t throw plates, they just sullenly stare and, in Erwin’s case, this gaze is often locked to the easiest form of escape – that of his computer screen.
Radwanski has cultivated a singular film grammar, made up almost exclusively of close-ups, creating an intimate charge that makes for gripping and often very funny viewing. He achieves an objectivity rare in film – never judging or obviously reducing his characters to symbols of wider society, and thus over time he may take his place with the great cinematic naturalists such as Roberto Rossellini and John Cassavetes, albeit with a droll Canadian charm of his own. How Heavy This Hammer could be an early chapter in the work of an important figure in the future of world cinema.
How Heavy This Hammer does not yet have an official UK release date.
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