It was recommended to me a few days ago, so tonight I finally caved, set aside homework and spent the evening with The Hunt; a Danish film from 2012, directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Mads Mikkelsen in the main role. It was received well critically, currently with a 8.3 rating on IMDB, and it has been nominated for and received quite a few awards.
The film tells the story of the recently divorced, lonely kindergarten teacher Lucas, who lives in a small Danish community. His life is turned upside down when all of a sudden, his best friend’s daughter, out of her feeling rejected by him, falsely accuses him of sexually abusing her in the kindergarten. The matter raises concern and suspicion in the kindergarten staff, and by and by, the whole community turns on him…
Shocking, painful, gripping
This is a film that is tough to watch. The accusations take place early on in the film, and the remaining time of the two-hour film is filled with wrong accusations and escalations. Very soon, the police gets involved and Lucas is openly shunned by everyone but his close family. It’s his, and the viewer’s, struggle of coming to terms with what has happened, and helplessly watching how the whole situation takes a turn for the worse – and then another turn for the worse, and another. Lucas is just as passive as the viewer here, as he soon sees that he cannot do anything to convince the village of his innocence; all that remains is hoping for the best, mixed with a tint of defiance.
Hitting close to heart
Maybe because the viewer can identify so well with Lucas, the victim of the story whom nobody believes, it’s a painful process to watch, and filled with conflict. On the one hand, we understand Lucas’s stance and his passiveness completely; on the other, we understand how the concerned parents, and hence the rest of the community, fears for their children’s wellbeing. And the same goes for the little girl, but, possibly, it’s even harder in her case. As adult viewers, we know that she doesn’t know what she’s doing, and that she doesn’t mean for any of this to happen. But at the same time there is much possibility for strong dislike building up towards her, a dislike that cannot be quite erased through adult thinking and understanding. It becomes especially hard to watch when Lucas does not remain the only victim; the angry community soon starts to shun his son as well, and the resistance against them grows more violent by the minute.
A real hunt
The clear, calm imagery of the film on the one hand, and the shocking, lonely, desperate scenes from Lucas on the other hand complement each other extremely well. His role as victim is emphasised and hinted at from the early beginning: it is hunting season in this Danish province, in which Lucas partakes as well. The innocent animals are interwoven with Lucas, who soon finds out what it is like to be hunted as well. Mikkelsen masters this role extremely well; it appears realistic and personal, and his development to the worst is portrayed brilliantly. The long silences underline the tension that the whole community as well; only few parts of the film operate with an actual musical soundtrack, making the viewer well aware of every single movement, sound, gesture, look, thereby creating a magnificent but uneasy atmosphere even in the less desperate parts of the movie.
It doesn’t go away – easily
I could feel throughout the film that this would not be one of those that you would be able to stomach easily. Indeed, it appears to be one of those that stay with you for a while, that encourage you to think – about yourself, others, and the good and bad in the world. And it should be watched with this in mind: not as an aside activity, but focused on it – and probably not when you’re feeling blue anyway…
I, for one, may need something cheerful to make up for it now.