Hatching (2022), a Finnish horror that’s been part of the Midnight section of Sundance Film Festival 2022, appeared on iTunes recently. Since the movie is teeming with various symbols and leaves open room for interpretations, let’s unwrap some of them in this movie analysis.
What is Hatching (2022) about?
Hatching (2022) (original title Pahanhautoja), a Finnish body horror movie directed by Hanna Bergholm, opens with a bucolic portrayal of a happy, Scandinavian family. Director purposefully creates an image ripped straight from the colorful IKEA catalogs. Fake smiles, pastel color grading, and strong light exposition amp up the effect.
The character mysteriously named Mother (Sophia Heikkilä) has it all – a successful blogging-vibe life, a postcard-like family, and a daughter named Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) who leaves blood, sweat, and tears in the sports hall so that one day she may become a gymnast. Needless to say, doing so would make Mother proud.
Unlike her mum, Tinja’s much more withdrawn and sensitive – an entirely different personality than Mother. The girl finds it hard to get along with peers, except for one friend. Having little wiggle room for a change, the girl seeks a way to shake things around and stop writhing in the cold glare of her Mother.
Then one day, Tinja finds an egg in the forest. Not just some random egg, but an egg of a crow that Mother murdered in cold blood earlier. What hatches from the egg turns out to be a vile creature that develops a strange connection with Tinja.
At the core of Hatching (2022) lives a drama movie about a dysfunctional family, gripped by a callous individual who disregards the happiness of others while pursuing her vainglorious vision of living freely and happily. Stuck between two sides of the fence is Tinja.
One side is her feverish ambition to live up to Mother’s expectations, while the second is keeping a harrowing secret of a creature she accidentally allowed into her life.
The next part of the article includes massive spoilers.
Now that you’ve been warned, let’s get to the nitty-gritty details.
The symbolism of a crow in Hatching (2022)
In the scene that opens Hatching (2022), a crow flies inside the room, destroying everything it encounters and finishing with a true calamity when an ornamented chandelier smashes on the ground and shatters into pieces.
All of that happens while the pitch-perfect family films one of the bask-in-my-own-glory videos for Mother’s Instagram.
The choice of the bird isn’t random, and there are numerous ways in which one could interpret a crow’s appearance in Hatching (2022).
Crows are known to be spirit animals, associated with witchcraft and ritualistic magic. Widely known in Slavic and Nordic mythologies, the symbolic connotations of these birds ranged from very positive ones – such as totem of luck, a sign of transformation and audacity – to far more foreboding interpretations, including crows as harbingers of death, misfortune, and mischievous behaviors.
In a biblical sense, crows symbolize the inevitability of death, as they fly around the men hanging on the crosses. When God instructed Aaron and Moses about the animals they can eat, crows were part of the detestable birds that shall not be eaten for they are not clean.
Hanna Bergholm commingles these various interpretations and symbols of crows.
On the one hand, the crow that appears in the opening scene foreshadows the ruthless egocentrism of Mother and the striking difference between Tinja and Mother. Mother’s deceitful, pushing Tinja to her limits to fulfill her unattained dream of being a gymnast.
However, that’s not the only way to look at this scene.
Given that Hatching (2022) focuses on the transformational change that Tinja undergoes, the crow symbolizes her strength and adaptability to the challenging situation.
Another curious interpretation is that the crow – which later on hatches from the egg Tinja gathers in the forest – is that it reflects the power of motherly creation; forming the new life. Tinja acts as a mother figure to the ugly duckling that comes out of the cracked shells and gives shelter to it – despite its hideous look and trickster nature.
The horror of coming of age
One of the core subjects that Hanna Bergholm discusses in Hatching (2022) is how Tinja battles her own demons of adolescence.
It becomes clear after scrutinizing a few moments in the film.
When the father notices a bloodstain on the sheets, the recurring motif of blood smear constantly pings back to the “entering womanhood” interpretation. Hence blood carries an essential meaning in the film and appears in various situations. The palpable transformation of the hatched creature soaks with bloody visuals, but there are less obvious blood drops left around – like the stain on Mother’s clothes after a hug with the son.
The hatched monster that Tinja nurtures also captures the body transformation of a young person – the changing smell, the different look, and noticing parts of your body as they go through a dramatic, vivid transformation (notice the beak that the creature drops). It’s almost as if Bergholm weaved in a horror-inspired interpretation of the ugly duckling tale.
Aside from the fleshly dimension of growing up, there’s also the psychological aspect that Hanna Bergholm explores – the complicated relationship between Tinja and Mother.
In the first act, Mother oozes a warm aura, albeit the notion of artificiality can already be seen. Nonetheless, Tinja buys the pitch-perfect family image and subjectively tries to fit in.
After the creature hatches, Tinja learns how to accept herself outside of the prison constructed by Mother. She grows to become more independent from her domineering parent.
A quintessential scene in that matter is a dialogue when Mother reveals to Tinja that she’s in love with another man. While Mother hopes to earn her daughter’s approval, Tinja begins to see through the intricate web of lies. Among all the lucid nightmares Bergholm conjures up, that one scene captures the most repelling manipulation one can imagine. The psychological weight of that scene reminds me of the mini-series The Act (2019), where a similar dynamic of a pathologically authoritative mother figure casts a shadow of despair and loneliness over a fragile daughter.
Eventually, the true horror in Hatching (2022) isn’t a crow-like monster that goes berserk, but the degree of abuse and control that Mother holds over her entire family.
How Hatching (2022) discusses motherhood
Another interpretation of the Finnish body horror Hatching (2022) looks at the mother-daughter relationship from a different perspective – how the main character Tinja tries to mend the mistakes made by her mother in the similar responsibility she now carries.
Birds are known to be highly protective of their babies, and that’s precisely the opposite of what Tinja’s mother represents. A bully to her own bloodline, a fake blogger, and quite a terrible person on all fronts, Mother does her best to win the contest of the worst parents in horror movies ever.
Paradoxically, observing this counter-example of motherhood wakes the parental instincts in Tinja. While the baseline of this link between the creature and Tinja isn’t revealed until the end of the film, it’s clear that the protagonist showcases maternal behavior. Tinja steps outside of her comfort zone on numerous occasions – i.e. feeding the creature by vomiting just like birds do. Aside from that, there’s the urge to keep the monster safe from the soulless Mother.
Forging a monster
Like in Joker (2019), Hatching (2022) also touches on the topic of how monsters are often victims of their own families.
After Tinja witnesses the vicious outburst of violence when Mother breaks the bird’s neck, the girl goes on her own punch-after-punch rampage, smashing the resurrected bird into a bloody pulp.
Perhaps the protagonist’s conscience compels her to bring the egg home.
Then the egg represents the anger and evil that grows in Tinja, and the hatching – a turning point when her malefic alter ego is brought forth into this world.
At this point, we should interpret the finale of Hatching (2022). While it’s nowhere near satisfying, the ending constitutes a masterful conclusion. Tinja’s innocence dies with her, and the newborn creature – now in its full shape – takes her spot. The scene’s very reminiscent of the same idea that Todd Phillips used in one of the last scenes of Joker (2019). Minutes after he’s rescued from a burning car, Arthur paints a bloody smile on his face, with fingers shaped as guns put to his head – a definite symbol of Arthur’s tragic death and the birth of Joker.
Similar parallel could exists in the ending of Hatching (2022). The literal death of an innocent child brings forth a darker creature that will now need to fit in.
Body horror in Hatching (2022)
Horror fans rejoice whenever a film goes to the extremes as Hatching (2022) does.
Bergholm passes the Cronenbergian vibes, bringing together all the horsemen of the Apocalypse – the sticky fluids, the amped-up carnal sounds that make your ears creak, prolific use of blood, and hideous creature designs that are straight-up nightmare fuels.
The animatronic puppet used in the film adds a particularly creepy layer to it. By the way, here’s a fun fact – the creature design project was helmed by Gustav Hoegen, the lead animatronic designer of the latest parts of Star Wars and Jurassic World. Bergholm shared in an interview that there was no way the crow would be CGI-ed.
To say that Bergholm uses horror elements to flabbergast would be an objectionable understatement. On the contrary, the Finnish filmmaker weaves them in the manner of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) to leave us with bone-deep discomfort. After a while, we settle into the bizarre situation, becoming more accustomed to the turpist carnality of the growth process.
There are moments of utmost creepiness too.
Bergholm balances the display of the creature incredibly well, visibly drawing inspiration from The Fly (1986). However, the most disturbing parts of the film are stuffed in its first part, leaving the stakes somehow lower than expected in the third act.
The game of colors in Hatching (2022)
One particularly awesome thing about this film is its nuanced visual aesthetic.
Colors, interior designs, even lighting, and color grading play a key role in the narrative. Let’s unwrap them.
Paint it white
White often represents innocence – the white dress in particular, as it brings to mind the wedding dress, an offering of purity.
Tinja dresses in white, for the most part, occasionally trading it for cheerful colors that, nonetheless, stay way behind her Mother’s zany sense of elegance. Shades of white create a stark contrast to the darker hues that Bergholm reaches for whenever the horror elements kick in. That is a very cunning way of setting the mood and building a disturbing contrast. This method was profoundly used in The Wicker Man (1873) and Midsommar (2019) too.
You’ve probably noticed the wallpapers, right?
Flower bouquets canvassed across all walls – from corridors to particular rooms – create an odd, fairytale atmosphere in the house.
That’s very purposeful, as it plays in contrast with what the dysfunctional family truly reveals. Bergholm once again applies colors as means of building contrast between the perception of reality and reality itself.
Hatching (2022) explained
There you go – here’s our take on the meaning of the grotesque body horror from Hanna Bergholm.
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