The Hunt

The Hunt

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Rating: 4.5/5

Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a gentlemanly father who, due to a lack of teaching work in his small Danish village, takes a job at the local kindergarten. Owing to an imaginative child and a jumpy co-worker, Lucas is wrongly accused of sexually abusing his best friend’s young daughter, leading to mass hysteria in the village and Lucas’ ostracism from society.

The Hunt is everything you’d expect from a Danish drama that competed in the Cannes Film Festival: dark and harrowing with lingering shots of snowy forests and characters sitting in half darkness looking sad and philosophical. But just because the film is often familiar, doesn’t mean it’s not also really, really good. I feel a lot of this comes down to Mikkelsen – dignified, reserved and subtle, he gives a stellar performance that helps to make the film engaging rather than just goddamn depressing. Mikkelsen walked away from the 2012 Cannes Film Festival with the award for Best Actor, and more importantly often tops Denmark’s polls for “Sexiest Man Alive” (this has my approval).

Director Thomas Vinterberg also does an incredible job of creating a quiet and tense atmosphere that makes the outbursts of violence even more shocking and significant. I also commend Vinterberg’s use of off-screen space, as the characters often see something before the audience does, thus making us wait in tense anticipation. The most heart-breaking instance of this is when the audience is finally given a shot of what Lucas’ harassers have left in the rubbish bag outside his house.

If you haven’t gathered already, this baby ain’t a barrel of laughs. Obviously it wouldn’t have been appropriate if Lucas had, say, a sassy gay best friend making witty jibes about the paedophilia accusations, but I felt the oppressive mood could have been lifted slightly at times to humanise the characters (such as when Lucas’ few remaining friends jokingly yell “pedo” at him when he hugs his son). Although a subtitled film about injustice and child abuse may not sound like the most fun you could have in two hours, you have my word that it is a definite must-see.
This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2013.
Posted 6:05pm Sunday 7th July 2013 by Rosie Howells.