Fiction as a way of “repairing” history was the driving force behind two new aesthetic exercises last year. Quentin Tarantino’s movie Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood showed us a late-60s Los Angeles in which Sharon Tate had not been savagely murdered, and enlisted Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio to sing what was a love song to the vestiges of Hollywood. Based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s graphic novel, the series Watchmen, written by the creator of Lost, Damon Lindelof, tells the story of an alternative America where Robert Redford has been elected president and white supremacists are a major threat to the country’s stability. Each time, the same process is at work, one that seeks to reveal a deep-rooted American tendency towards hatred and violence through the liberating medium of fiction. Not to rewrite the past, but to push it to the point of delirium and in doing so bring back all its power to illuminate the present. Watching Hunters, Amazon’s new online series, it’s hard not to think of these two recent exercises in the genre: even if the approach is different, the spirit is the same, all three playing with the legacy of grave collective traumas.
The work of a young unknown scriptwriter, David Weil, Hunters, which is based in fact but pushes history to its logical extreme, deploys characters who resist the horror of the past. The history in question is that of the Nazi atrocities carried out in Second World War Europe. Audacious and explosive, Hunters evokes life in the death camps through a series of flashbacks while telling the story of a group of vengeance-seeking Jews (filmed in the style of small-budget exploitation movies) who, in the U.S. of the 1970s, hunt down high-ranking Nazis who have made new incognito lives there. A 1977-style action series with period costumes and music to match? Given the subject matter, the treatment is daring to say the least. It’s perhaps in this kind of “incongruity” that we can recognize works that are capable of shaking up the most entrenched attitudes, such as those which insist that the horror of the German death camps can only be dealt with through “serious” drama.