The Hunt (Jagten) - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
THOMAS Vinterberg’s The Hunt is an extraordinary film on so many levels. An intelligent, emotionally compelling and often claustrophobic examination of a man wrongfully accused of behaving inappropriately with a child, it’s demanding cinema of the highest calibre.Mads Mikkelsen (best known for his Bond villain in Casino Royale) plays the man in question, named Lucas… a much loved kindergarten teacher whose life has only just started to get back on track following a messy divorce.
When one of his pupils, a young girl, makes the accusation, however, his life slowly begins to fall apart as first his colleagues, then his friends and then, finally, the whole community turns against him, forcing him to become a social pariah in spite of his innocence.
Vinterberg’s film slowly turns the screw on Lucas but is all the more authentic for it. In fact, his film starts from a point of humour, allowing audiences to take a proper look at the tight-knit nature of Lucas’ community and the equally close bonds that form the basis of his friendships.
Yet from the moment the young girl makes her shattering accusation, Vinterberg begins to crank up the tension – and viewers will almost certainly be holding their breath throughout.
Mikkelsen, for his part, gives an outstanding central performance as a man whose own faith in his friends and education system is severely put to the test… yet whose own impeccable moral standards seldom suffer. It is a performance of immense dignity that’s certain to leave viewers heartbroken for him.
Yet such is the nature of Vinterberg’s direction, and the sense of paranoia he creates among the community, viewers may once or twice find themselves checking the validity of Lucas’ innocence, especially once the ‘evidence’ begins to mount against him.
But therein lies another of the film’s strengths – its ability to tackle the subject with the seriousness it deserves. There is nothing sensationalist in the director’s approach, which intelligently explores the complexity of a difficult accusation and its effect on everyone involved – not just upon Lucas, but also upon his head-teacher, his best friend (and father of the girl making the accusation), right down to the local supermarket owner.
Several sequences are heart-stoppingly intense, while the various reactions are designed to provoke an emotional response and feverish debate afterwards. The ending, meanwhile, provides a sobering conclusion that’s tonally in keeping with what’s come before.
In short, The Hunt is a film that excels in just about every department. It’s undoubtedly one of the best films of the year that deserves to find a wide audience, in spite of its difficult subject matter. Mikkelsen, meanwhile, deserves every accolade coming his way.
In Danish, with subtitles
Running time: 111mins
UK Release Date: November 30, 2012