Writers: Tobias Lindhold and Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen and Lasse Folgelstørm
When Mads Mikkelsen accepted his Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival last year for his heart wrenching performance in The Hunt, he declared “I’d like to share this with all of you because you believe in what you do.” I suppose you’d need a whole lot of courage and faith in a story when creating a film, especially one in the vein of The Hunt.
Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg’s films are often considered mirrors that reflect the true pains of life. His latest film, The Hunt, sees him tackle the excruciatingly difficult subject matter of child sexual abuse and the alienation that faces the accused, whether they are guilty or not. One of Denmark’s greatest exports, Mads Mikkelsen, portrays Lucas, a kindergarten teacher who is finally getting his life back on track after a messy divorce. He has a new girlfriend, his teenage son Marcus (Lasse Folgelstørm) wants to live with him and he has a solid circle of friends who go on hunting weekends together.
Lucas’ life unravels when one of the children at the Kindergarten (whom also happens to be his best friend’s daughter) wrongfully accuses him of sexual abuse after a series of misunderstandings. The small Danish community is quick to label Lucas as guilty without even him fully understanding what he is being accused of. Friends turn their backs on him and he is ostracised from the community, publically humiliated and abused.
At the centre of The Hunt is a truly superb performance from Mads Mikkelsen, who always seems up for the challenge of a difficult role, and has played everything from a Bond villain to the Queen of Denmark’s lover to Hannibal Lecter. Mikkelsen is subtle in his portrayal of Lucas as a regular man with real life problems, but the humiliation and alienation he faces is handled with a sympathetic, committed and compassionate performance.
The film’s dedication to focusing almost solely on Lucas (there is barely a scene without him) is one of The Hunt’s strongest points. We know that Lucas is innocent, which makes the destruction of his life so much more devastating and almost unbearable to watch. Not to say that The Hunt is unwatchable, but the constant blows to Lucas’ life seem to have no end and there is barely a moment of relief from this tragedy. The ending is a true shock (not to spoil anything) and will leave your heart racing long after the credits roll.
Vinterberg has created a visually beautiful film with sweeping Danish landscapes of forests and lakes, and the beautifully decorated interiors that reflect a realistic middle-class community.
The Hunt deliberately makes its audience feel uncomfortable, anguished and helpless all at once. It tells one of the time’s oldest stories, the dangers of prejudice and judgement, which places it akin to a classic like To Kill A Mockingbird. But The Hunt’s major difference is that we know the entire time the accused is innocent, yet we are forced to watch powerlessly as a decent man is isolated from all that he loves. The Hunt is a true modern masterpiece that will break you heart and provoke you into questioning societies’ judgements and prejudices.