When a lie from a young and adorable little girl ruins the life of an innocent kindergarten school teacher, honesty, friendship, family and reputation are all in the balance and severely examined as a town goes insane and a man loses his grasp on a life he believed he once had in The Hunt. Review after the jump.
Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a well respected member of his community in a small town in Denmark. He works as a teacher at the local primary school where all the kids and co-workers alike respect him. He has supportive friends and a fairly good life, except for his inability to gain custody of his teenage son from his previous marriage. His life improves further when he meets Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport), the new girl at work who takes an interest in Lucas. Their relationship soon blossoms; and Lucas is then informed that he has finally gained custody of his son.
Things are on the up and up for Lucas, but his life suddenly collapses when a young girl at the school he works at, tells a devastating lie about an inappropriate interaction which never happened. The little girl, Klara, is the daughter of Lucas’s best friend. Almost overnight Lucas has no friends, no job and loses complete custody of his son. The local authorities visit him regularly in an attempt to find grounds to arrest him on the spot. He has officially been banished and his life is non-existent even though what was said, was a complete lie. Can Lucas reclaim his life? Can he prove to his best friend and the community that he is the victim rather than the perpetrator? Will Klara admit to her lie and will everyone else believe her?
Before anything can be said about The Hunt, the one thing that must be commended above all else is the film’s screenplay, written by director Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm. It treats a subject such as alleged paedophilia with such delicate care and maturity; the focus being on the consequences of a lie rather than the lie itself, make for a very intelligent and effective film. We see the slow demise of a community and of a protagonist who becomes the target of a menagerie of hard-working and good-hearted people, who are eaten from the inside with guilt and anger. The lie being told by a child, and the perceived epitome of innocence makes for the tale she tells to be a grounded one. As a co-worker at the school says, “Children never lie”. It’s only a matter of time until everyone else twists words and perceptions and tensions only increase. This is a situation you could barely imagine, yet you’d wish upon no one. Who would you believe? How would you distinguish what’s truth and what is not? The film’s greatest strength is its screenplay; with three-dimensional characters and scenarios that accompany this challenging story with grace, rather than bog it down. If this were made in Hollywood, rest assured there would not be this much restraint.
The performances from everyone in The Hunt are something else entirely, almost matching the quality of the screenplay. Mads Mikkelsen for once isn’t playing a villain; he is a quiet man filled with gentle sensibilities and compassion, encompassed by fear and desperation. This performance won him the award for best actor at the Cannes film festival last year, and it is rightly deserved. The other performance that needs to be greatly noted is that of Thomas Bo Larsen, who plays the girl’s father. There are actors who could shout and seem angry without difficulty, yet Larsen’s performance is of a father dwelling in inherent sadness for his daughter and for the loss of his best friend. Very few actors can portray a destroyed being with conviction, Larsen does just that.
A large majority of the choices made in The Hunt are intelligent ones; the audience expects a bang but receives a whimper. From the choice of music and meandering films score to the style of filmmaking, The Hunt is patient with its story and revels in the sadness that emerges from this story. Embrace this film, it’s a story that will frustrate you to no end, yet I can promise you, you won’t be sorry if you see it.
By Chris Elena
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writer(s): Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Alexandra Rappaport
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Release Date(s): Australia: May 2, 2013; USA: July 12, 2013 (No release date confirmed for New
Zealand as of yet)