Under the original title of “Jagten”, The Hunt is a Danish film directed by Thomas Vinterberg (Dear Wendy, The Third Lie) and starring Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal, Casino Royale).
A dark and intense film, The Hunt introduces us to Lucas (Mikkelsen), a teaching assistant at a Kindergarten who takes great care of the students under his watch. Suddenly, after telling a young girl named Klara, who attempted to kiss him on the lips, that kissing is for grown-up’s only and she shouldn’t be doing that sort of thing, Lucas finds that Klara, a child with a runaway imagination, has claimed to the female teacher that Lucas exposed himself to her. Lucas, entirely innocent of such a disgusting thing, finds himself as a town outcast and his life is turned upside down. He attempts to declare his innocence but finds that most of the people around him are not just unwilling to listen, but in complete belief of the accusation. A father with a young son and teacher with a love for his job, we witness this mild mannered and hard-working man fall into desperation and exasperating banishment as his town turns their back and refuses to listen to his cries.
It is hard to go further in depth without giving away too many things, but when I say that this film is an intense experience, I truly mean it. The topic, without question, is an uncomfortable and terrible one, but that should not deter you from seeing this film. The acting from Mikkelsen is one of the best single performances I have ever witnessed, and the level of depth he brings to the role of Lucas is astounding. There are a number of standout scenes in the film and so it is difficult to pin-point just a couple, but the overall tone of the film and the way in which we follow Lucas’s story is engrossing and incredibly sad. We witness an innocent man being treated like a vulgar criminal by everyone around him all because of a simple lie from a small child. It is horrific in the truest sense. We see who Lucas’s true friends are as he reaches his lowest points.
Vinterberg has done a wonderful job at heightening the tension to boiling point in such a realistically scary manner and allowing the performances of the actors involved to shine. Thomas Bo Larsen as Lucas’s ambivalent friend and father of Klara, Theo, offers a different side to the story, a view of what it might be like to hear this sort of thing spoken by your child and regardless of the declaration of innocence from the accused, how one might act. It doesn’t shy away from this and brings a great deal of inquisition to the film, causing us to ask ourselves how we might act and react if we were in particular characters’ situations.
Beautifully written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, The Hunt is unlike anything I have seen before. A taboo subject, and for good reason, dealt with in a way that asks questions and forces opinion whilst commenting on deception, ignorance and judgement. I found myself with my mouth agape, my eyes tearful and my teeth ground at various times throughout the film, and I was exhausted once the credits rolled, but these are compliments as much as they are anything else, because while this is not a film you would throw on to relax to on a Friday night with a bottle of wine, it is certainly an important and excruciatingly tormenting film that will impress anyone who gives it a go. Mikkelsen deserves a massive amount of credit for taking on such a dark and emotional role and the cast that he works with, from his friends to his enemies, do a fantastic job of creating scenes of suspense, discomposure and hate.
Without question, one of the greatest films in recent years and one you should seek out immediately.
The Arrow release of the film in the UK, though lacking in special features, looks and sounds superb and though it might have been nice to see some interviews and features regarding the making of the film, it is still a worthwhile release because of how remarkable the film itself is.
Released by Arrow, The Hunt is available on DVD and Blu-ray, now.