The Hunt (Denmark: Jagten), 2012.
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Alexandra Rapaport, Lars Ranthe, Anne Louise Hassing, Thomas Bo Larsen, Susse Wold and Ole Dupont.
A teacher and father’s quiet life implodes when a child accuses him of the worst kind of inappropriate behaviour…
Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt is about belief and doubt and how quickly those doubts can spiral out of control. In a similarly gruelling, uncomfortable way to Vinterberg’s most celebrated film Festen, here interpretations of suspicion, memory and the fragile nature of human relationships are integral to the unnerving plot. A nervous, thought provoking and deeply sensitive work, The Hunt is fully deserving of all the accolades it has so far received.
Recently divorced Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen; Valhalla Rising, Casino Royale) leads a humble life of kindergarten teaching and living alone in a small, picturesque Danish town. Apart from occasional boozy outings with drinking buddies and the amorous attentions of strong-willed fellow teacher Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport), his is a remote, isolated existence. And it is an existence eked out in the sort of sheltered community where everyone knows everyone else and it is practically impossible to keep any kind of secret.
Battling for custody of his teenage son and struggling with every day, Lucas’ life takes a much darker turn when Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), one of his kindergarten pupils, makes a horrifying accusation against him.
Vinterberg and Mikkelsen portray Lucas in as normal a light as possible but the film manages to instil a reasonable amount of doubt in the audience. In this tortured situation, it is all about the witch-hunt and how acquaintances, colleagues and even friends can so quickly turn.
Without divulging any spoilers, Klara appears to be experiencing a form of infatuation for Lucas – in a half dream she calls out to him with the oblique statement “it was not supposed to happen”. The strength here, is the script’s openness to interpretation and Vinterberg’s skill at presenting a believable whole.
The only slightly off note to my mind comes at the conclusion, which I shall not reveal within the words of this article, except to say it was the only aspect that did not quite ring 100% plausible. But even with this, it can be argued that events could have transpired to bring it about. In any case, the haunted looks in Lucas’s eyes show no signs of going anywhere soon.
Beautifully shot and featuring tremendous performances; most notably from Mikkelsen and Wedderkopp, The Hunt is a truly frightening film and one that will remain lodged in the memory like a Chinese whisper or scurrilous rumour.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.