Today: April 18, 2024
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The Hunt

With this year’s BFI London Film Festival barely days old, Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s shattering The Hunt (Jagten) may already be a serious contender for the best of the fest.

With this year’s BFI London Film Festival barely days old,
Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s
shattering The Hunt (Jagten) may
already be a serious contender for the best of the fest.

Lucas (Mads Mikkelson)
is the beloved kindergarten teacher in a small Danish town. It’s the kind of place where everyone
knows everyone, neighbours look out for each other and Lucas is a valued and
respected member of this rural community, hunting deer with childhood friends
during boozy, rowdy get-togethers.
He’s just recovering from a messy divorce, is looking forward to more
access to his teenage son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrøm)
and is getting back in the dating game having begun a tentative romance with
foreign co-worker Nadja (Alexandra
Rapaport
).

Universally adored by the children he teaches, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), the daughter of his
best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen),
develops an innocent crush on Lucas, one which he gently rebuffs. Hurt and resentful, her imagination
running away with her, Klara makes up a story that Lucas exposed himself to
her, telling the kindergarten’s headmistress Gerthe (Susse Wold) and embellishing it with half-understood details she’s
glimpsed in a porn film her teenage brother was watching.

Almost overnight, Lucas finds himself ostracised, a pariah,
shunned by the community, he and Marcus attacked verbally and physically in the
street by their former friends and subjected to vicious reprisals as events
spiral out of control…

Heart-wrenching and unsentimental, The Hunt is a hard film to watch and calls to mind the awful
witch-hunts of the Orkney and Cleveland child sex abuse scandals twenty-some
years ago. In perhaps his best and
certainly most powerful film since Festen
(which similarly dealt with the theme of child abuse), Vinterberg’s almost
clinical charting of the fear and mistrust that destroys this small community
and an innocent man’s reputation is terrifying, laying bare our societal
conditioning, our insidious paranoia and hypocrisy, the fragile nature of
trust, the danger of the mob, the power of suggestion on young minds and the
speed with which lies and gossip become first public opinion and then
set-in-stone fact. This is a film
about a community tearing itself apart, destroying itself. No matter how painful the resolution or
hard-won the vindication, the damage done is irreparable.

The script by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm is note-perfect, its warmth and humor never
softening its impact as it spins a credible nightmare from an all too
recognisable reality. The performances
are fantastic from Susse Wold’s hysterical headmistress to Thomas Bo Larsen and
Anne Louise Hassing’s confused,
devastated parents with Larsen particularly strong in the film’s final third but
special mention must go to Lasse Fogelstrøm as Lucas’ teenage son who’s vulnerability and unswerving loyalty to
his father are heartbreaking. As
Klara, Annika Wedderkopp gives a truly astonishing, natural performance as the
confused young girl whose lies take on a life of their own. The scene where she recants and tells
the truth only to have her admission disbelieved and her tales reinforced by
the adults is almost too frustrating to watch. Mikkelson as ever is excellent. Cast against type as a sympathetic, almost heroic, everyman
he gives an outstanding performance of intense, wounded humanity.

Taut, tense and harrowing, The Hunt is brave, devastating cinema.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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