on 14 January 2013
The path taken by the outstanding Mads Mikkelsen's character Lukas is Job-like in his apparent fall from grace. From a warm, familial opening with the menfolk of the community skinny-dipping in an icy lake to a fractured, mistrusted outcast, the journey is intense and thoroughly moving. The naturalistic acting and script is superlative and the performance from the 5 year old playing Klara is exceptional.
From a 'few foolish words' from Klara, Lukas' world is torn apart as he is wrongly-accused of child abuse. Every performance in this film crackles with energy yet is finely nuanced. The direction is superb; all autumnal hues and a tense 'what-will-happen-next?' constantly bubbling beneath the surface. Most importantly, you really care about the characters, one way or the other.
The Hunt could be seen as a companion piece to Vinterberg's Dogme Manifesto film 'Festen' but in my opinion is even more successful in exposing the horrors of human nature, family bonds and a very modern media-fueled hysteria. In simplistic terms, the moral is 'mud sticks' yet the complexities on display here are intelligent and deeply heart-felt.
Without a doubt one of the best films of 2012.
In yet another subtle and well-acted Danish film, we see how Lucas, the only male assistant to provide a bit of rough and tumble in a nursery school, finds himself sacked, charged by the police and a pariah in his tight-knit community when a normally truthful child appears to confide to the head teacher that Lucas has sexually abused her. From the outset we are given clues as to other events in the child's life which might be affecting her actions, but which cannot be known to those investigating the issue. Through a series of all too believably blundering attempts to "do the right thing", Lucas is condemned from the outset, wild rumours multiply as people are carried away by "groupthink" to turn against him.
The film skilfully points the finger at others who might be letting Lucas carry the blame for their own misdeeds, and even arouses our own occasional doubts as to his innocence. However, for the most past we feel outrage on his behalf, and a helpless sense of his compounded fate. All the main characters display some depth and changes in their emotions - in the case of Lucas, his natural gentleness and passivity giving way to bursts of retaliation.
The drama is set against a background of the deer hunts which bind the men together in a macho culture which may of course brutally cast out someone who seems to have broken a taboo, and the availability of guns adds a continual underlying threat of violence or tragedy. The film has the entertaining knack of following what seems like a happy event with a sudden twist back into suffering for the unfortunate Lucas.
Although the prejudice and hysteria in the community may seem a little exaggerated, the ending does not baldly "spell everything out" but leaves areas of ambiguity to provide food for thought. What should you do in a delicate situation which you cannot ignore but in which no action can be taken without damaging either the potential victim or the possible perpetrator, perhaps irrevocably? How can adults communicate effectively with confused children who may wish both to please them and conceal things from them, and also lack the language to express their feelings? How often do we make judgements without knowing the full facts, or even realising that this is the case?
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`The Hunt' is the story of Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a teacher who is well known and liked in the small community in which he lives. But this soon changes when he is wrongly accused of a crime.
Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) is Lucas's best friend, and he's not coping too well with family life. Theo's troubled young daughter Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) seeks solace in Lucas and his dog Fanny. Karla oversteps their friendship, Lucas carefully rebuffs her but she interprets it as a rejection. Klara concocts a story that Lucas sexually abused her, and confides in her headmistress Grethe (Susse Wold) who mismanages the situation catastrophically. The school and the parents interrogate Karla, putting words in her mouth when she doesn't know what to say. Worst still, Grethe informs all the parents to look for signs of trauma in their children, and suddenly everyone begins to see signs of abuse that were never there, cue mass hysteria.
We are forced to watch an innocent man bullied, persecuted and ostracised because of the nature of the accusation pointed against him. Lucas's demise contrasts with Klara's position, she's since said to her parents that Lucas was innocent, but they refuse to believe her. This is a world where the innocence of a child is never in question, and its an interesting tactic by director Thomas Vintenberg to show the accuser in a negative light, especially one so young. The opposite is the case for Lucas, who is shown as diligently honest and trustworthy. Lucas is helpless, whether he reacts or not he is seen as the guilty party. Only one person managed to listen to reason throughout the mass hysteria, his close friend Bruun (Lars Ranthe) offering Lucas unwavering support and some much needed pitch-black humour to cope with his ordeal.
Lucas' witch-hunt reveals a community who are quick to resort to illogical and degenerate behaviours. Watching Lucas' story unfold is unbearably tense and extremely powerful. Yet nobody is demonised in the film, everyone has their own understandable motivations and this only increases the tension you feel. Facts are based on lies, gossip and innuendo, not to mention the power adults have over their children. Its also indicative of the paranoid herd mentality not only of adults but also of children, who all fashioned the same story to pin the blame on Lucas. The men in the community are all particularly close, they all including Lucas bonded week in week out like a band of brothers. To see all but one of them betray and remorselessly bully the mild mannered Lucas must have been traumatic, seeing Theo side with his daughter over him must have been devastating.
The acting by the cast is superb, Mads Mikkelsen gives a deeply humanistic and scarring performance. Annika Wedderkopp handles a difficult part with an amazing maturity for one so young . Thomas Vintenberg has directed a near perfect film, `The Hunt' is a gripping and achingly emotional film which will challenge and upset you and is sure to touch a nerve. You realise that this dark and terribly cynical film may be harsh, but its ultimately an indication that its all so very truthful and realistic, such is the world we live in.
on 2 June 2016
Mud sticks, as the saying goes. You are innocent, having committed no crime. But an accusation against you is made, becomes publicly known. Doubt arises and suspicion spreads thereafter. People who know you, or thought they did, begin to look at you differently, feeling their trust has been betrayed by you. Thus they also become victims of your crime, the crime you never committed until they started believing you had. Which is a major problem with belief: it isn’t always accurate. So we see here how witch hunts begin and spread, how doubt, fear and suspicion create a relentless momentum of distrust. We also see how it can tear a community apart.
The story takes place in a small Danish town. Lucas, about 40, is going through some hard times: divorce, irregular work, partial estrangement from his teenage son Marcus. The breakdown with Marcus hurts, as Lucas doesn’t want to lose the love, trust and respect of his son. But it’s tough because Marcus is apparently close to his mother and Lucas doesn’t look like much in the community, now teaching at a kindergarten instead of holding down a proper man’s job.
But at least friends are supportive, especially Theo, who more or less opens his home to him. Lucas gets on well with Theo, his wife Agnes and their young daughter Klara, aged about 6.
Lucas seems to like the kindergarten. He’s good with the kids, generous and playful. He even walks Klara to the school sometimes. They walk hand in hand. He’s protective of her as if she were his own daughter.
Like many children, Klara has an active imagination. She picks up on what she hears around her. Maybe she’s a little lonely, living in fantasy worlds she constructs for herself, as all children do.
Part of what she hears at home is adult talk which she doesn’t understand. This comes from her teenaged older brother who is randy and likes pornography. Daring, risqué, adventurous talk. Maybe by using it she can be adventurous too. Maybe it’s a game in which she can become the centre of attention. Who can clearly say what goes on in the nebulous mind of a child? It’s all a great muddle inside as the child tries to make sense of a baffling world ruled over by adults.
A stray comment is uttered by Klara at the school. The female principal of the school overhears the remark while Lucas is outside playing with the other children. The principal, Grethe, wants to be sure what she heard from Klara is what she said, so she coaxes the child to repeat it, which she does.
Suddenly the school (and community) has a problem. Lucas is not what he seems. The child has told the adults something disturbing. Lucas is now, without knowing it, under intense scrutiny and surveillance. Experts are called in to speak to the child, to tease details out of her. There are no details. There is no problem. The child simply has a vivid imagination, the line in her mind between fibs and truth telling fine and muddled. There is no clear divide.
She loves Lucas as she loves her own father. She may even have a small crush on him and feel confused by it. She doesn’t understand what she’s saying, but how are the adults to know she doesn’t understand? Ideally, it’s the job of a psychiatrist to understand, to get to the bottom of a child’s fantasies. That he fails to do so here may not be an indictment of psychiatry by the film, but we see its flaws and limitations. As we know only too well, or should by now in this post-Freudian world, psychiatry is an interpretive, subjective endeavour, not a science. Of course it’s not the domain of charlatans per se, but its results can sometimes look like charlatanry.
The results in this case are devastating and depressing. The child is believed, not the adult. The verdict by an arbitrary court of law established internally and unofficially by persons unqualified to do so is that Lucas is guilty, his crime a perversion. But there is no crime. We the audience, along with Lucas the accused, know the charge is false. But how can he prove it — his word against that of a child?
So the real crime, if there is one, is the community’s. Frontier justice and lynchings are the work of barbarity, not civilisation.
I hesitate to say more because this subtle thriller is meant to be seen (as all films are), not read about. So I have described only the background to the nightmare Lucas experiences, not its depressing details.
Takeaways? Evidence is vital, critical. It’s why we have laws and a judicial process. Without them the whole world becomes a moral Rashomon subject to simultaneous, conflicting interpretation. Innocent till proven guilty is right, always correct. This is the proper arrangement. Anything less is chaos, anarchy, barbarity.
Lucas is wounded by many things: circumstances, his community, his so-called friends. Also, though not stated directly, by a modern climate of paranoia and suspicion perpetuated by the media. What’s interesting and heroic is how he survives. As the title suggests, he was a hunted man and may even remain one. Things are left ambiguous in the film, so we cannot properly know its ending.
If mud sticks, that’s because that’s what it does. Once smeared on a person it’s difficult or even impossible to remove. Even those innocent and exonerated of crimes they did not commit can remain tainted, the doubt and suspicion surrounding them never dissipating.
Hence this is a cautionary tale, and a great one, about fear, bigotry, intolerance, injustice. I suppose the film won’t disappoint you, though it’s likely to depress you.
Latstly, Lucas is played by Mads Mikkelsen, one of the finest Scandinavian actors now working. The camera loves his face, as he’s one of those who needn’t say anything to convey an entire world of feeling. He will be remembered and appreciated long, long after his film career is over.
on 28 March 2013
`The Hunt' is a truly accomplished film, its simple premise and themes are executed perfectly. The film is hugely engrossing and completely and utterly infuriating, which is a testament to the merits of its acting, direction, script and hyper-realism.
The film follows Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a lonely primary school teacher who relishes his job and is popular with both the children and the local community. Just as he meets Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport) and begins a relationship with her, his relationship with another woman, 5-year-old Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), lands him in immeasurable trouble. What happens is a completely innocuous misunderstanding, but the community, the `adults' who are supposed to be rational and fair, turn into a lynch mob.
The film is about the danger of mass-hysteria, ignorance and subsequently the frightening power of numbers. It teaches the importance of measure and consideration; it's a much needed anecdote to the sensational vilification, general ignorance and trashy media that permeates our lives.
It's the scare-mongering, amoral tabloids that partly brainwash and empower the dangerously ignorant lynch-mobs that arise whenever someone screams `paedophile!' or `woman beater!' These lynch-mobs normally consist of pugnacious, dreadful people who enjoy drama and violence rather than actually care about their cause.
The film is intelligently and thoughtfully written. The girl is by no means vindictive; as much as you want to vent your anger, she's clearly far too young to understand what is happening. It's the `adults' who display their stupidity, their total lack of reasoning and fairness left me indignant for the entirety of the running time and subsequently the whole evening - the film really works.
There is a palpable sense of danger throughout the film, you genuinely fear for Lucas' life; seldom have I empathised with a character so dearly. Who would've thought a Danish Art House film could be so thoroughly gripping?
`The Hunt' is a thought provoking, tactful and important film that should be seen by as many people as possible. It's one of the best films of 2012.
Is it any wonder that Mads Mikkelsen won the award as best actor at the 2012 Cannes film festival for his performance as a teacher wrongfully accused of indecency? Playing the role of Lucas, a popular member of a small, close knit community at the local school whose life is torn apart due to a child with an over active imagination. This isn't a spoiler as such as the film makes it clear from the beginning that Lucas is innocent. The main strength of the film is Mikkelsen's portrayal of a man who is ostracised by his friends and co-workers due to a horrible rumour.
He is well liked by the children at the school at which he works, is part of an all boys club who like to get together to hunt and drink but everything changes when the daughter of his best friend makes a horrible allegation. A child who feels neglected in her own family home and one that misinterprets innocent friendship. The only people who stay loyal to Lucas are his teenage son and one of his friends from the group of hunters, who is also the godfather to Lucas's son. One rather odd message from the film is the idea that children don't tell lies. Or perhaps the message from the film is that adults want to believe everything that children tell them. In order to feel for Lucas, the film is shot in a way that it seems no-one is willing to question the allegation, once it has been made then the community are sure Lucas is guilty. The child realises that she has made a mistake but her words fall on deaf ears. The scene in the headmistress's office with her companion illustrates just how words can be put into someone else's mouth.
Thus he suffers threats, intimidation and violence from within the community.....a pariah. The only weakness of the film is perhaps the conclusion when everything wraps itself up but the epilogue is perhaps a chilling reminder that no everyone agrees with the outcome. Despite the subject matter of the film and the rather intense performance the film does have two gems of comedy which help to ease the tension some what. It certainly won't be to everyone's taste but it is an extremely powerful film with an excellent performance from Mikkelsen. Most certainly a film that will leave you with something to think about once the credits start to roll.
A slow puncture of a movie this. The dvd jacket has a quote: 'Riveting.' Unrelentless is closer to the truth. I could not help thinking that there were three flaws in the way the story evolved. First, the words of the child: we the audience know how she learnt them but no adult in the movie thinks to ask: how did she know the words? Second, her unnatural kissing was not interrogated and third, well, that's in the surprising ending.
An interesting atmosphere. The foreign language (Danish) adds to the strangeness of it all. And I did keep watching. Fickle in the face of certain words. The 'evidence' of a young, young mind. Sensitive stuff. Gruelling at times. People.
on 9 May 2015
Truly wonderful film; the acting was superb from all (when does Mads Mikkelsen EVER put in a bad performance?) and it was a visually beautiful piece.
One or two things seemed a little implausible (and I do have some experience of the issues that film deals with): it seemed odd that no one thought to question Klara's conspicuously adult language when she was describing what Lucas had apparently done to her. If they had managed to get a straight answer out of her (that she had heard the language from an older sibling) then they wouldn't have been so quick to completely believe her and then to put words in her mouth when she faltered in answering further questions. There would surely have been questions asked about her home life too.
The weirdly naive headmistress rather stretched belief: she acknowledges that children, Klara especially, have an active imagination and then refuses to consider the possibility that the little girl might be lying when even Klara herself displays uncertainty and retracts her accusation. I understand that the headmistress is supposed to be mismanaging the situation for the sake of plot development, but that's all it felt like, an expediency for the sake of the plot. She's obviously more than an averagely intelligent, being a teacher, so her actions were a little difficult to believe.
Truth to tell, I'm probably nit picking: I really loved this film and would heartily recommend it, though it isn't an easy watch. Lucas burying his dog in the rain is probably one of the saddest things I've ever seen in a movie. Mads Mikkelsen is heartbreaking.
on 6 December 2012
Some movies don't hit you straight away. I came away from The Hunt (Jagten) disappointed by the obviousness of its messages; frustrated by its conservative form; and irritated by its predisposition to sympathy (the quickest shortcut to audience response). But after reflecting upon the film, these elements have coalesced, and now I see them as combining to create a film of clarity, psychological depth (particularly in relation to group dynamics), and understanding of the human condition. I still think it's more concerned with sympathy than empathy at times, but there is a boldness to this approach which will hopefully see the film appeal to a wider audience.
Mads Mikkelson excels as the schoolteacher, Lucas, who in a single month goes from kids' favourite to community outcast, after the daughter of his best friend accuses him of sexually abusing her. Klara feels neglected - but there's no doubt that she'll get plenty of attention now. The film reminds us that children lie and deceive in order to feel loved. Klara isn't manipulative, just lonesome. It's the adults who manipulate - sometimes themselves - in order to satisfy their own inadequacies, as well as uphold their own myths about the children in their care: innocence and absolute virtue, as if we're born that way. Ironically, through our sentimentalising of children, it is children who've become the outcasts, compartmentalised from the rigours of reality, treated as a different species.
This is a quietly important film for these times of wildfire rumour and networked innuendo - one which goes some way to adding some grey to the black and white relationship between adults and children.
on 8 December 2013
There is a moment in this masterpiece when you know that that is the part that is going to spiral someone's life out of control. And in this movie, it's the split second scene where Klaras brother shows her an indecent picture on the IPad.
It's not served to you on a plate, but its little subtle things like this, that make this movie the harrowing piece it is.
Mikkelsen is wonderful as Lucas, a lonely teacher who is just trying to get his life back on track. His son is about to move in with him, and he has met a potential partner, but when Klara, his best friends daughter makes him a gift, and he refuses it because he feels its inappropriate, she tells the teacher a lie, that will shake the whole community.
As the viewer, you feel so much empathy for Lucas, because you know that his career is over, and that his life will never be the same, but at the same time, you feel anger toward the rest of the community, because they banish him, without letting him speak.
Its a taboo subject, because any sane person would take the youngsters side, but it's the fact that when she says to her mother she made it up, the mother just brushes it off, and it gets worse and worse for Lucas.
It really is a hard hitting film, the cast are wonderful, and having it set around Christ,as, gives the mood an even more lonely feel for Lucas.
It's not for all tastes, it will leave you exhausted, especially the final scene, which leaves you knowing that Lucas will always be guilty to some, even though it's been proved otherwise.