Film review: The Hunt

20:49, Jun 16 2013
The Hunt
HEART OF DARKNESS: Danish film The Hunt, staring Mads Mikkelsen, brilliantly reveals the understated violence at the heart of civilised society.

THE HUNT (R16) (111 min)

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Susse Wold, Thomas Bo Larsen.

Mads Mikkelsen, with his floppy schoolboy hair and face which can be private or open by turn, is perfectly cast in the role of Lucas, the kindergarten teacher unjustly accused of child abuse. In the same way, civilised Denmark with its beautiful houses and outdoorsy inhabitants is the perfect setting.

How could something so primal happen in such a place? The Hunt is not for the faint-hearted and I found it hard to sit through nearly two hours of such subliminal tension. You know from the advance publicity what the subject matter is, and you know - from being an observer of what happens - that Lucas is innocent. You are also witness to why Klara, the small girl who tells her teacher that Lucas has exposed himself to her, tells the lie.

It's not the lie itself that is at the heart of the story, but the feral reaction of the community.

Klara's father, Theo, is Lucas' best friend, they grew up together - who is Theo to believe? His protective loyalty, his divided love are nicely portrayed. It's more straightforward for the locals - where there's smoke, there must be fire. A nice parallel to the father/daughter story is Lucas' relationship with his son, who, after his parents' breakup, has just chosen to live with his father.

The understated violence at the heart of this film (and, by implication, civilised society) is brilliantly portrayed. With first- class dialogue (the joking between the men stands out), top acting and exquisite filming of that beautiful, sombre landscape, this is a hard but rewarding watch. I find it interesting that some viewers somehow believe Lucas must have done something. Online reviews make fascinating reading.

And, if not Lucas, some of them ask, then who? But somehow, that online conversation just confirms the film-maker's point.


The Dominion Post