Thomas Vinterberg has the uncanny ability to tell some of the most gripping stories, regardless of how uncomfortable the subject matter. His first film The Celebration (Festen) was a testament to that and now with his latest film, The Hunt (Jagten) he manges to tell a story of fear, love and the very nature of trust. Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a teacher at the kindergarten in the small Danish town he lives in, who lives a quiet life. We shortly find out that he’s been recently divorced and is having issues with his former wife about the custody of his son. One day, when he goes into work, he’s asked to leave, on the grounds that one of the children has accused him of sexual assault. The girl happens to be the daughter of his best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larson), who’ve known each other since they were children. The results of these accusations shake the very core of the town and Lucas’ own livelihood, as he must find a way to tell his fellow townspeople, that its not true.
The Hunt succeeds primarily on its ability to be fully realized in its characters, setting and situations. Vinterberg gives us glimpses of this community and Lucas’ life, before these terrible accusations occur and the aftermath of them. The entire town turns against him, but strictly for the sake of their children’s well being. Even when Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) creates these false accusations, we have an understanding as to why she’s done so. By giving all of his characters these shades of grey, we get a much more human and realistic approach to a truly terrible predicament and why they events take place the way they do.
Mads Mikkelsen turns in a performance unlike any of his previous efforts and one of his most memorable. As Lucas, Mikkelsen brings a calm demeanor, a man that doesn’t truly try to make waves for anyone. Even when he’s arguing with his ex-wife, the character of Lucas doesn’t even get extremely angry or upset, but always remains logical. When the townspeople start to believe the lies that are being spread about it, it is then that we get to see Mikkelsen begins to showcase nuances in his performance, showcasing a man that is falling apart at the seems and is slowly breaking down upon the assaults and insults.
The ending for The Hunt is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t want to spoil the film, but Vinterberg chooses to show the long lasting effects of such accusations. That no matter what, Lucas will never be okay again, regardless of what good he does and how much he’s proven himself, he’s still labeled as a monster.
The Hunt will undoubtedly be in the running for Best Foreign Film for the Oscar’s and with its approach towards a difficult subject matter and high quality acting, I’m sure that it has an extremely good chance of taking it home. Highly Recommended!