Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt” is a stunningly good film about a kindergarten teacher that is wrongly accused of the sexual abuse of a four year old girl. This is such a well made film about a potentially prickly subject which thankfully Vinterberg does not sensationalize.
Lucas is a well liked and trusted kindergarten teacher in the local community, loved by everyone, the teachers, children and their parents. He is best friends with Theo whose young daughter Klara attends at the kindergarten where Lucas teaches. Theo and Lucas are very close to one another having been best friends for most of their lives and Lucas gets along very well with everyone in Theo’s family. Lucas’s own family life is a little sadder because he is divorced and his only son, Marcus, lives away with his mother. Due to the kindness and love Lucas shows Klara she develops a little kid crush on him, and one day at kinder she makes him a heart and plants a kiss on his lips. Lucas naturally tells her that kissing on the lips is only for parents and that she should give the heart to one of the boys in case. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, even if the woman is only four years old. Klara who is very upset by the rejection tells another kindergarten teacher that Lucas has shown her his penis and that it was erect. This starts the ball rolling when an innocent man is persecuted and judged for something he did not do because the word of a child is always considered true. Lucas is investigated and after the parents are told some signs of abuse to look out for, suddenly more children come forward, all telling the same story of being abused in Lucas’s basement at home. The police arrest Lucas and take him away to search his house for evidence. Not surprisingly they find none, but of greater interest is the fact that the police find out that Lucas has no basement. Without further to do they release Lucas due to him having done nothing wrong. However even though the police have released him, he has been judged by public opinion and they still consider him guilty and continually torture this poor man who used to be one of their trusted peers.
I loved this film so much due to the beautifully way it has been handled. For the most part the film is about human behavior when they become a pack. Reason seems to be pushed aside if the consensus of the group says someone is guilty even though there is no proof of guilt. The performance from Mads Mikklesen’s is nothing short of greatness, it is a sensitive performance as we observe this man as everything is taken away from him for something he did not do. It is interesting to watch how he at the beginning he believes everything will be fine, he will talk to Theo and work it all out, and as the film gets more serious for him, the more he realizes it isn’t going to end well for him. He suddenly isn’t calm anymore but angry and you can feel he has a rage inside him, but importantly he never takes it out on Klara herself, rather the adults that should know better. Throughout the film, he never holds a grudge with Klara, he understands she is a child and didn’t realize the seriousness of her actions, but the parents are a different matter entirely. At regular intervals in the film, Klara tries to tell the adults that she made it all up, but the adults never listen to her, not properly, because they tell her it did happen and she has just forgotten it, confusing the poor child. I know I singled out Mikklesen’s work here, but everyone in the cast is amazing making this drama very real and scary.
The script by Tobias Lindholm and Vinterberg himself is incredibly layered, very intense and sensitive, all in one. Again, let me see that the fact that it isn’t over sensationalized makes the film so much better because it doesn’t make it seem like it is out to make big statements just to tell a good story. The point of the film is to not judge someone straight away without knowing the full facts, and to sometimes question what a child is saying if it doesn’t sound right. Personally if I was in Theo’s position, I do not know what I would do and who I would believe, my child or my best friend, it is an incredibly difficult position to be in and the way it is handled in the film is very realistic.
The only flaw I had is the ending which is set a year later but this is because if I was in Lucas’s position and had what happened to him in the entirety of the film, I am not sure I would be as diplomatic as him, so for me, it didn’t feel as real as the rest of the film. However, the very end of the film, I very much liked when they are all out on Marcus’s first hunt, and Lucas is reminded that the suspicion will never end, not really.
Overall I was blown away by the sensitivity and power shown in “The Hunt”, it is a magnificent film. Mads Mikklesen won the award for Best Actor in Cannes this year for his performance as Lucas and it was definitely well deserved. In fact this is a brilliantly acted and scripted film all round. With only minor flaws, “The Hunt” is a film well worth checking out.