The Hunt: Movie Review
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Annika Wedderkopp
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Fresh from success at the New Zealand International Film Festival last year, Danish film The Hunt finally gets a release here.
It's the story of Lucas (Mikklesen in another award winning turn), a teacher, who leads a solitary life and is wrestling with the fall-out from a break up as he tries to get time with his son.
Living in a small knit Danish community, Lucas ends up working at a kindergarten to make ends meet - but that's where the trouble starts as he is accused by Klara (Wedderkopp) of exposing himself to her. With investigations into his conduct and alleged behaviour, the small community begins to slowly turn on him, with devastating emotional effects.
I'd heard dark things about The Hunt - about how it got unrelentingly bleak and so to be honest, I had been expecting the worst from this tale of kindergarten teacher Lucas whose life is irrevocably changed after one of the children in his charge lies and falsely tells his boss he's been sexually abusing them.
What I couldn't have been expecting is just how utterly compelling and totally claustrophobic, this latest film from the director of Festen, Thomas Vinterberg was going to be. It's no wonder Mikkelsen won the Best actor at Cannes this year for his portrayal of Lucas, the innocent man who's damned before his peers without any shred of evidence.
But what's winning about this film is how utterly plausible it is in places as it taps into the small minded community mentality and how non-hysterically it plays out.
Mikkelsen and youngster Annika Wedderkopp (who plays Klara who makes the claim) are completely the stars of the piece thanks to underplayed, subtly sly and riveting performances. Sure, it's an old story and one which we've all seen shades of before, but it's these two actors who imbue their time on screen with such utter devotion that you can't help but be swept up by it - despite accusations of how it really could happen in this day and age.
Vinterberg also needs commendation for his directing and crafting of the tale - Lucas goes from being part of a gang of friends whose bond stretches years back to a haunted and vilified ghost of a man, whose (admittedly frustrating) refusal to totally refute the claims seems like madness. No doubt his self belief is what carries him through but as they say, it's darkest before the dawn, and Mikkelsen's subtle performance is a cinematic tour de force.
Similarly, Wedderkopp, a cute blond moppet (a direct contrast to Mikkelsen's frog like facials) plays a girl who doesn't understand the truth of her lie and who's caught up in a world she can't possibly understand. The scenes where she tells her mother that it didn't happen and her mother comes back telling her it did are gobsmackingly heart breaking and cut an emotional quick as well as hint at a reality of what could play out. Vinterberg's hit a fine form here and a few nerves as well (judging by the horrified yelp of one woman at the screening's ending during the Film Festival) and makes The Hunt as dark as anything you're likely to experience.
The Hunt is horrifyingly good, heart in the mouth drama that challenges but showcases acting genius and really does need to be seen up on the big screen while you have the chance.