56th BFI London Film Festival Review – The Hunt (2012)

The Hunt (Denmark: Jagten), 2012.

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Alexandra Rapaport, Lars Ranthe, Thomas Bo Larsen, Anne Louise Hassing, Susse Wold and Ole Dupont.

SYNOPSIS:

A kindergarten teacher is accused of sexually abusing a young girl. His world completely falls apart as he struggles to prove himself innocent.

The Hunt, starring Mads Mikkelsen, is a film that follows a man who is wrongly accused of paedophilia. To say it’s a bit heavy going is an understatement. The fact I felt this way after leaving the screening is testament enough to the film’s power and brilliance.

So, jumping straight in, The Hunt is good across the board. Fantastic performances from everyone, especially Mikkelsen, let you in completely. The relationships between the characters are what keep the plot going, as each character goes through their own arc, but what helps is the atmosphere that’s created. The sense of insecurity, and the feeling the same sort of ‘world collapsing around you’ event could happen to anyone (including you) is what draws you in.

There’s a general sense of ill feeling from the very minute Lucas pushes a young girl away after she kisses him, and it’s there where the movie sits. It’s like a slow motion train wreck. You know what’s going to happen and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it. His helplessness as he’s accused of something he didn’t do, and is then blocked off from getting any information, was something almost palpable. The small town he lives in turns from friendly to hostile in the blink of an eye.

There also aren’t any scenes that feel surplus, which helps keep the pace from lumbering. Every moment drives the plot forward, mainly pushing Lucas deeper into a hole. There aren’t any standout moments as such, and the option of getting more emotion through melodrama is never used. I thought one scene in a store was going to lead to an emotional stand off, but it works in just the right way to be realistic and emotional, as opposed to over the top. Subtlety, from everything including performances and plot, is how this movie works better than just simple momentary emotional filler.

Giving the audience more information than the protagonist is the easy route the filmmakers have employed to garner more sympathy for him though. I did at times wonder if an audience could’ve gotten more from a slightly different film, perhaps from showing other points of view more extensively (for example, what his best friend makes of it all is never shown in great detail).

Giving other characters a more significant arc would’ve given the story more complexity. I can’t help but think there’s another, perhaps more powerful plot found inside the home of the girl who accuses Lucas, mainly because her father is Lucas’ best friend.

I don’t want to detract from The Hunt though. The visuals, like every other element, are understated. Muted colours when Lucas is by himself let you feel his loneliness, along with the warmth of other interiors where you feel like he’s the intruder.

The direction is successfully personal. If you don’t connect with Lucas the film would obviously be lost. Tension levels are kept up with use of handheld shots, making you wonder what’ll happen to Lucas in the end.

What does happen in the end is a little strange, considering we as an audience have been rooted heavily in the present only to be shot forward through time. Apart from that, I don’t really want to say anything else for fear of spoiling. But what I will say is that The Hunt is worth the admissions price alone for the performances found inside. Everything else, while not quite as good, is certainly more than worth your time.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★/ Movie ★ ★ ★

Matt Smith