Mob Mentality and Innocence:
Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a guy that has had his fair share of lousy luck. He’s in the middle of a bad break-up with his wife and struggling to see his son more often. He’s also recently lost his job as a school teacher due to the usual problems in the economy. Still, as we join him in Thomas Vinterberg’s film The Hunt, things seem to be on the turn upwards for him.
His estranged partner is mellowing a bit as regards visiting rights and he is working as a part time and well-liked teacher in the kindergarten of a small, but seemingly pleasant, Danish rural community. On top of that he is being pursued by a very sexually confident woman, Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport) and has just begun a mutually pleasing relationship with her.
Then it all goes pear-shaped for him once again—only this time the results are both terrifying for him and excruciating for the viewer to watch. Because what we know we are seeing is a man being wrongly accused of molesting a child; and I can think of very little that could be worse than that.
The confused little girl, Klara (Annnika Wedderkopp), has had her feelings hurt by his quite correct rejection of a gift from her; and armed with some words that she has learned—but doesn’t understand—from her brother she makes an accusation that Lucas has sexually interfered with her.
The teacher in charge of the school, Grethe (a superb Susse Wold) is initially doubtful but soon calls in a psychologist, at which point things escalate frighteningly out-of-control as the entire community turns on Lucas, refusing him in shops and even physically attacking him.
This is a very powerful film indeed but extremely difficult to sit through. As things go from bad to worse I couldn’t help recalling the outrageous events in the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland, several decades ago as entire families found their lives utterly ruined by the actions of—to put it kindly—over-zealous social workers. In this case of course it is one man that we see being hounded to the very brink but that just makes it all the more harrowing, for me at least. Even after the child has recanted she is put in a position that perhaps she (although far too young to understand what is being suggested) has suppressed the memory of the abuse. Again, shades of the Orkneys.
Yet as I was wondering how these people could be so blind as to just accept the word of a child, I also found myself remembering the amount of times I myself have railed against those who refused to accept evidence of clerical abuse not so long ago. So here I was thinking that Grethe was too quick to believe when at the same time I’ve often said that adults aren’t quick enough. In fact every time I thought that a plot point was weak I recalled the amount of insane decisions that are taken in reality.
This is a difficult film on an unbearable subject; and as I’ve said it doesn’t make it easy on the viewer. And then, as one character puts it:
“It is often assumed that children don’t lie. Unfortunately they often lie.”
Mikkelsen (currently starring as Dr. Lecter in the TV series Hannibal) is nothing less than superb in the main role; and a mention must also go to Thomas Bo Larsen as his best friend and father to the girl, Theo, who is simply in a world of torment.
Vinterberg co-writes the script with Tobias Lindholm and cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen also deserves a mention for her portrait of Denmark moving through the autumn until the climactic events on Christmas Eve. Or at least to me that was the real climax, although the filmmakers decided to go on for another ten minutes. I wasn’t sure about that at first although having thought about it, it seems a little clearer now.
One thing is for certain: if, like me, you’re an adult male living on his own, you’ll think twice about even nodding hello to a kid in the future. It’s a rightfully distrusting world out there.
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