I’m rarely disappointed by Danish films. Not only is Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (Jagten) not an exception to that rule, it’s probably a textbook example. Upon reflection it very well might be my favorite film of the year.
It’s a little odd recommending a movie which is on the surface a story about a kindergarten child molestation. It is no spoiler to say that star Mads Mikkelsen’s role of accused teacher Lucas is totally innocent of the crime. Mikkelsen, best known in the United States for his villainous role in Casino Royale has long been wonderful in the films of Danish director Susanne Bier and the matured works of ex-Dogme directors such as Vinterberg. He is again brilliant here, and gives a frightened, human and touching performance.
One of Lucas’ kindergarten students, 5 year old Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), has a crush on him. Klara is also the daughter to his best friend played by Thomas Bo Larsen with great complexity. When her childlike affections are not returned by Lucas she hastily implies to the head of the day-care center, Grethe (Susse Wold), that Lucas exposed himself to her. A predictable witch hunt ensues that rips apart his life in a matter of days, nobody bothering to question the child’s vague accusation.
The Hunt, despite its somewhat clunky and heavy-handed metaphors (most of the town’s male characters are a tight knit group of avid hunters – think The Deer Hunter), and unnecessary final moments, is an amazing and touching film. Relying more on the humanity between the characters than the darkness and accusations, it’s one of those rare films that allows the people to question themselves, rather than just plod along in a black & white way because the script has dictated it.
I also need to mention the wonderful cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen. Set in the two months leading up to Christmas, The Hunt looks and sounds like a well budgeted Danish drama, with the requisite crisp, cold yet golden images. I strongly recommend this film, it will hit theaters on July 12th from Magnolia Pictures. Visit the official page.