The Hunt is a film that hits you square between the eyes.
The Hunt is a film that hits you square between the
eyes. It’s a sucker punch for the brain, a
film so overflowing with character, theme and injustice as to make you sit there
wondering; “does this sort of thing really happen?” all the while knowing that
without doubt, it does and more importantly you allow it to.
Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a primary school
teacher in a quiet Danish town.
He’s single and fighting his ex for more access to their teenage son
Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom). But when his student, and best friend Theo’s
(Thomas Bo Larsen) young daughter,
Klara (Annika Wedderopp), accuses
Lucas of inappropriate behaviour to head teacher Grethe (Susse Wold) it sets off a chain of events that Lucas has no control
over. Terrified that such a thing
has been going on in her school, and refusing to believe that a child would
make up such a thing, Grethe calls the authorities and Lucas is rapidly branded
a pedophile. Ostracised by the
town and his friends, Lucas’ life collapses around him as he is vilified while
desperately trying to convey his innocence.
The subject of
pedophilia is one that causes disgust and avoidance in equal measure. The Hunt hits it head-on but from the
point of view of the accused rather than the victim. Lucas is unaware who has made the original allegation
against him but as more and more children jump on the bandwagon he is never
afforded the opportunity to put his version of events forward. We follow Lucas, we like Lucas, we know
he’s innocent. And yet, as the
film subtly and quietly unfolds co-writer and director Thomas Vinterberg smartly toys with our beliefs.
For the power of
The Hunt lies in its ability to make you question not only Lucas but your own
sense of justice. For the majority
of the running time it’s impossible to fathom how the town, and in particular
Grethe, have allowed such an allegation to be so widely accepted, even when
Klara herself informs her mother that she said something “foolish”, it is swept
under the carpet. But then come
stories of a basement, which all the children describe in the same detail, and
slowly a shadow of doubt begins to materialise in your mind.
It’s a bold and
often brutal assault of a film. A
story shot with an ever-changing temperature of mood and colour. One minute we can be in a warm autumnal
glow, the kids enjoying Lucas’ company, the next the snow is falling as the
town’s distain for Lucas grows with ferocity. Suddenly we’re asked to look at
ourselves, to question the witch hunt before our eyes and ask; if you were in
the town, if you had a young child in Lucas’ school, would you simply take a
child’s word as golden? It’s
harrowing and unflinching to the point of making you feel both guilty and torn
as to what is the best course of action to be taken.
are all overwhelmingly believable.
Susse Wold, as the overwrought head teacher, is affectionately naïve, a
woman so terrified by what she is hearing as to buy into it without doubt. Annika
Wedderopp as the young Klara is a revelation. A child whose words, while articulate, rarely express what
she wants to say. Her cherub looks
and wide-eyed gaze perfectly capturing the innocence behind this horrendous
accusation. Mad Mikkelsen
meanwhile takes your breath away with his performance. At first his energy knows no bounds,
playing with the children as an older sibling would before his world, body
language and visage are literally beaten down. Towards the end Lucas sits in the town church on Christmas
Eve, determined to show his face in the most public of forums, but as the eyes
bore into the back of his head so Mikkelsen’s resolve shatters and we bear
witness to a meltdown so heartbreaking it’s hard to watch.
haunting and devastating, The Hunt is a film that is so deeply affecting as to
make you question everything you think you know. And yet, despite it all there is that horrible niggle, that
sense that nothing is ever truly resolved.