Late to the Party – Thoughts on The Hunt

In my continuing effort to give my thoughts on only the most talked about, timely films, I present to you my post on the 2012 Danish film, The Hunt. Sarcasm aside, you may have heard the title of the film recently at the Oscars, where it was nominated for Best Foreign Film. I have not yet viewed the other films in last season’s category, but I must say that they would be hard pressed to surpass the subtle brilliance of this film.

Mads Mikkelsen stars as Lucas, a kindergarten teacher in a small Danish village. He lives a simple life and clearly enjoys his job. He is well-liked by his community and level-headed even though the aftermath of a divorce has exacerbated his relationship with his son. Lucas’ life becomes more complicated when a young girl, the daughter of his best friend, wrongly accuses him of sexually assaulting her. Though her testimony is unclear and muddled by her inability to fully grasp what she is speaking about, her story is quickly accepted at first by the school’s leader (who says that children cannot lie), then the parents of the children at the kindergarten, and then the village’s community at large.

The Hunt is a frustrating film. This is not because the film itself is not well-directed or shot. The direction, by Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration, Submarino), is creative, while at the same time not detracting from the grounded nature of the story. The cinematography is fitting and perfectly portrays Lucas’ shrinking world as his list of friends grows short. And it’s not because of poor performances either. On the contrary, the performances are great. Though there are other performances in this film, including an impressive one by Lasse Fogelstrøm who plays Lucas’ son, The Hunt belongs to Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen, thankfully gaining more exposure now due to his wickedly brilliant turn as Hannibal Lecter on NBC’s Hannibal, won Best Actor at Cannes Film Festival in 2012 for The Hunt, and for good reason. Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Lucas’ growing frustration with his situation is completely believable and his horror at being ostracized and betrayed by people that were once his friends is heartbreaking. Ultimately, The Hunt is frustrating because it is a story about ignorance and blind acceptance. Assumptions are made and acted upon without evidence nor consideration for the gravity of those assumptions and someone’s life is ruined in the process.

Though it is by no means a fun film, The Hunt is a thought provoking slice of realism that will no doubt leave you pondering its events (and Mads Mikkelsen’s powerful performance) for some time after the credits roll.

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