Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a nursery school teacher in a tight-knit Danish village. However, when one of the children accuses him of sexual wrongdoing towards her, the community turns against him. Only his son and a few close friends stand by him as he struggles to clear his name.
Films can elicit myriad emotional responses, be it sadness, happiness, fright, etc. However, The Hunt evoked a response in me that few other films have – anger.
This isn’t a film based on a true story, but it would have come as no surprise if it were, which is hugely depressing. This kind of story crops up in the mass media more and more frequently, and like the film, there seems to be a guilty until proven innocent viewpoint. Everyone’s quick to judge without knowing all the facts, which in the days of social media, is a worryingly frequent trend.
Here, the young girl who made the accusations, Klara, is asked leading questions by authorities who have already decided what they believe, which is massively infuriating to watch. Lucas is a man hounded to the very edge of breaking point, and seeing those he previously considered friends condemning him with nary a second thought is heartbreaking and had me seething at various points throughout.
However, there is always two sides to every coin, and the film does raise some interesting moral dilemmas. It’s easy to look upon such a situation with a neutral eye, but if your child’s teacher was accused of similar indecency, would you be able to keep a level head? It’s almost impossible to answer.
Cinematically, the film succeeds on just about every level. The cinematography is beautiful and everything we’ve come to expect from Scandinavian dramas. Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen does a superb job of creating a quaint rural village that becomes increasingly claustrophobic as Lucas’s life collapses.
And then we come onto Mikkelsen’s portrayal of the wronged school teacher. Even when carefree and popular, Mikkelsen’s Lucas is a joy to behold, but when the brown stuff hits the air conditioning and he’s on the ropes, he takes it to another level. One scene in church on Christmas Eve is is shocking and tragic and Mikkelsen hits every note perfectly. There are also a couple of excellent secondary performances from Thomas Bo Larson as Theo, father of the girl Lucas is said to have wronged, and Lasse Fogelstrøm as Marcus, Lucas’s son.
The Hunt weighs heavily on its audience. It’s a hugely emotive topic and one that could have been simply too dark. However, there is still enough optimism in there to keep this from happening. The darkness and futility is punctuated with support from Lucas’s friends and son who act as a glimmer of hope for him. There are a couple of slight plot issues towards the start of the film, but they don’t in any way overshadow what is a truly absorbing piece of cinema – even if I did want to yell at the screen throughout.