The world is full of evil but if we hold on to each other, it goes away.
Despite it not being that well known, Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt” is quite possibly the most high profile film I have reviewed so far due to an Oscar nomination at the 2014 Academy Awards, and the fact that at the time of writing it is 125th on the IMDB’s list of the best 250 films ever made.
This is also easily the most sensitive matter film I have reviewed so far. Whilst my other reviews have focused on horror, comedy and pure outright nonsense, yes, I’m looking at you “Angriest Man in Brooklyn,” “The Hunt” focuses on a man who becomes forsaken by his community after accusations made by a child.
It’s a subject matter that is rarely addressed in films and is dealt with in such a fantastic way that I haven’t been as brought into a film on an emotional level for such a long time, almost to the point where I forget I am watching a film.
Lucas (Mikkelsen) works at a kindergarten and loves his job, however, one day he gets invited into the office of the school’s head teacher and is informed that he has been accused of pedophilic behaviour towards a child, Klara (Wedderkopp). Despite the considerable lack of evidence against him, he soon finds himself ostracised after everyone adopts a “guilty until proven innocent” attitude.
Even after Klara admits to her parents that it was a lie, no-one chooses to believe her, especially as more children say that Lucas was also inappropriate towards them, again with a distinct lack of evidence (such as describing being taken down to a basement at Lucas’ house despite no such room in the building existing).
As Christmas approaches, Lucas struggles to lead a normal life, getting assaulted whilst buying groceries, having bricks thrown through his window and even initially rejected from entering a church for prayers on Christmas Eve.
Well I think in any film of such a serious subject matter, especially one that is rarely the subject of films, you have to be very careful about the way you portray each character and I’m not going to lie, it does a fantastic job of doing exactly what it should do.
All the way through you know that Lucas didn’t do what he is being accused of, and you actually start getting really angry at the way the characters are treating him when there is precisely no evidence against him, especially the head teacher who reacts in such a way that it actually makes the situation considerably worse with her reactions. She effectively leads the witch hunt against him for the early part of the accusations and although I understand she has to safeguard the children, it could have been dealt with in a much better way.
It’s not so much the situation that makes you start getting angry at the characters, it’s the way that they react, but in many ways it is the reaction you would expect to happen in real life and you wouldn’t blame people for getting angry at the idea of someone that they trusted having alleged pedophilic interactions with their children, but it’s the whole guilty untilnproven innocent reaction that most display that actually makes you angry. If the character was guilty then you’d understand, but as he isn’t, and you know he isn’t, it’s hard not to get angry.
Mikkelsen does an excellent job as Lucas and even though he doesn’t show a lot of emotion through the majority of the film, something that is becoming somewhat of a trademark for the actor, you don’t have to see shock on his face when he is initially told of the accusation as his body language and the look in his eyes tells you all that you need to know. This isn’t like the monotone acting of Keanu Reeves, Kirsten Stewart or any of the other actors who show no emotion and have dead eyes, Mikkelson does the non-visible emotions so well it seems like it’s just simple second nature.
The only two characters (that aren’t related to Lucas) who even give it minor thought that he hadn’t done it are Theo (his best friend and father of the child) and his girlfriend, Nadja (although that doesn’t last that long). Just after the accusation is made there is an excellent scene between Lucas and Theo where they discuss what is happening. The scene is exceptionally well acted by Thomas Bo Larson, infact I would go as far as saying it’s one of the best acting performances in a single scene that I’ve seen in a long time as the internal conflict is clear as he doesn’t know whether to believe that his best friend would ever do such a thing or whether to trust what his daughter said.
Even much later in the film after Lucas has been assaulted whilst out buying groceries, Theo sees him from his car, covered in blood and even after all that has happened, you can still see the emotional conflict that he is going through and you can definitely tell that he is not 100% convinced that Lucas did indeed do anything inappropriate in front of Klara. In many ways he also obviously feels guilt for the way that Lucas has been treated by the fellow townsfolk.
Some scenes in the film take me by surprise, such as when Lucas’ son turns up and whilst talking to Theo, Klara comes along and he starts asking her questions, she refuses to tell the truth (we already know it’s a lie as she has admitted it to her parents by then) and his reaction is to spit on her. I have seen some very surprising scenes in films but that has to be one of the most surprising as the character is at most four years old. It surprised me through the pure emotional reactions from the character.
That is pretty much the only reaction from all of the characters that didn’t seem real. That’s the highest praise that I can give the film, the sense that this could all easily happen in real life and be exactly the same as what has happened on film, and those are the types of films that get you emotionally invested. Don’t get me wrong, I love films that have very little place in reality, such as Willow (my favourite film), but there is something extra special when you find yourself forgetting that you’re watching a film.
Not many foreign language films find their way into the Top 250 of IMDB’s best films in history, but this is one of them and for good reason. This is one of the best movies I’ve seen in recent years and it’s exceptionally harrow.
I don’t think I really need to say anything more to laud the film and even though you might not be keen on foreign language films, this is worth 115 minutes of your time.
Watch it. Watch it now!