A Taste of Hunger is a modern tragedy baked within a Danish film about a father and his dream of owning a restaurant with a Michelin star. Carsten (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) must impress a Michelin food critic in order to obtain a coveted Michelin star while his wife, Maggie (Katrine Greis-Rosenthal), hides her affair with a friend of Carsten’s, Frederik (Charlie Gustafsson). It’s a tale of intrigue, deception, lies, and infidelity. Although it’s a family drama at its core, A Taste of Hunger is aided and set apart from other family dramas by the unique setting of an upscale restaurant. It is an incredibly well-done film in its cinematography, soundtrack, acting, and directing, but the story that said sensory elements convey is less impressive than the medium in which it is expressed.
A Taste of Hunger feels very dramatic. This dramatic feeling is achieved by an excellent blend of cinematography, scoring, and acting. When the camera isn’t capturing gorgeous urban and rural Germanic landscapes, it’s being used by the director to capture close-ups of actors reacting in various scenes. The camera moves in closer when each scene reaches its respective climax to capture the minor intricacies of each actor’s facial expression. This technique accentuates the acute choices of the actors and heightens the emotions displayed in each scene.
Speaking of acting, the performances given are all spectacular. The acting is very immersive and each actor shows candid feeling in their scenes. Although the language barrier may make an analysis of the acting prowess difficult to the viewer who doesn’t speak Danish, the emotions conveyed by the actors via their tone and body language is more than enough to display that these actors have talent. Not once will the viewer question if the character is really feeling the emotions that they should be feeling in each scene.
The score that compliments these serious scenes elevates the film to another level. The soundtrack added to the more serious scenes helps to engage the viewer and add more tension to each scene. Some of the scenes would not be as powerful as they are without the score.
Each of these elements mean nothing without the tactful guidance of the director, Christoffer Boe. The direction in this film is really what makes it shine. The direction of the actors, camerawork, and editing makes A Taste of Hunger a beautiful film to watch, but the story being told in this beautiful manner is less impressive.
The film feels like an amazing drama because of the superb acting, camerawork, and editing, but once one looks past those aspects and studies the plot exclusively, the allure begins to vanish. Without giving away too much, the basic plot of the film is that Maggie must hide the fact that she is having an affair from Carsten while also searching for a food critic who could give their restaurant the coveted Michelin star. The main plot of the film takes place in a single night, but is supplemented by multiple flashbacks and jumps in time.
The flashbacks take up more time within the movie than the main plot of the film. This is a bold move since non-chronological films are difficult to pull off because the flashbacks and time skips can take away from the tension in the main plot. Although A Taste of Hunger suffers from this pitfall, there is just enough conflict in the flashbacks in order to keep the audience intrigued. The main issue arises when the film goes back to the present and the audience has to remind themselves what they’re worried about in this timeline and what’s happening.
The theme that the film seems to convey is that focusing too much on one’s professional life adversely affects one’s family life, but this theme isn’t very well executed within the plot. The work itself never seems to directly interfere with the family dynamic. What does affect the family dynamic is the personalities of the two parents. Maggie cheats on Carsten and Carsten lets the stress of work seep into how he handles his family. Ultimately, it gets the audience asking “so what?” Both main characters are flawed, which makes it difficult to root for them. All characters should be flawed to some degree, but the issue is that some characters are defined or overshadowed by their flaws. Maggie and Carsten fit this description
Maggie and Carsten make mistakes, but the reasoning for their mistakes doesn’t seem to warrant their behavior. Carsten loses his temper with his family because, ultimately, he puts too much pressure on his restaurant. Maggie cheats because she feels that she can’t open up to Carsten about personal matters. Instead of learning and overcoming these flaws, the characters succumb to these problems which they created for themselves to create this tragedy. This makes their fatal flaws seems weak which makes their fall less satisfying.
A Taste of Hunger is a beautiful film and should be seen if one appreciates an artistically made film, but one should allow the visual and auditory elements to overshadow the plot in order to enjoy the film to its fullest. Once the viewer tries to piece together the reasoning for all of the character’s actions, it begins to fall apart. Just watch the beautiful Germanic scenery, listen to the subtle yet effective soundtrack, and invest oneself in the emotions portrayed by the characters in each scene. Watch it to appreciate the truly impressive aspects of it, but don’t look too closely and disappoint oneself.