The Hunt (2012)

aka Jagten

2018 #195
Thomas Vinterberg | 111 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | Denmark & Sweden / Danish, English & Polish | 15 / R

The Hunt

Mads Mikkelsen stars as Lucas, a preschool teacher falsely accused of sexually abusing a child in his class, in this hard-hitting drama directed and co-written by Thomas Vinterberg, one of the co-founders of Dogme 95. That filmmaking movement is pretty firmly relegated to the past at this point, but its goals — to focus on story, acting, and theme — live on somewhat in powerful films like this.

In this case, primarily, one of the film’s great strengths is how plausibly the matter is handled. There are no screaming histrionics and no raging against the world from Mikkelsen, as slowly the entire town turns against him based on a few misguided and poorly-understood words from a confused child. Instead, he mainly conveys a lot of quiet desperation — a man who knows he’s innocent but can’t work out how to prove it, and is increasingly hurt as people he called friends almost all turn against him. And that, I suspect, is how a real-life version of this would go down, despite what some of the film’s few critics would prefer to think: most people would hunker down and hope the law would come through to prove innocence, not go on some screaming rampage.

Nonetheless, it’s quite a damning film in its view of society. Most of what happens is due to adults getting carried away, misspeaking, and jumping to assumptions. It begins with a lie told by a child, but the intent is not truly malicious, but then things spiral out of her control. It’s also, naturally, even more pertinent now than it would’ve been when it came out, with allegations and denials of sexual abuse ever more often in the news. Fortunately, The Hunt is a mature and considered film, with something to say for audiences to consider, rather than hysterically coming down on one ‘side’ of an argument.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

That said, I’m not sure some viewers are mature enough to take the film in. I’ve come across more than a couple of reviews that didn’t like it just because it was a difficult film full of unlikeable people. Sorry, but that’s life — there are annoying, stupid people out there just like the ones depicted here. Yeah, it’d be better if these morons didn’t exist, but they do, and that’s how shit like this happens in real life. Just because dickheads are real, and many of the characters in this film are inspired by those dickheads, doesn’t make this a badly-made film for depicting them.

Obviously this is in the writing, by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, and the way the former has translated it to the screen, but also the performances. Mikkelsen is fantastic, of course, offering a restrained and unassuming performance characterised by inner desperation that only occasionally leaks out, which makes the injustices against him feel all the more hurtful — it is, in the most literal way, not his fault. Even more incredible, however, is Annika Wedderkopp as the little girl who first accuses Lucas. I mean, with a child that young it’s as much the skill of the direction as the actress, but they’ve given real depth and nuance to her character. You can actually see and feel the conflicting emotions she’s struggling with written across her face, most of all in an extended scene where she’s first interviewed about her accusations, as she’s visibly torn between wanting to back out of the lie but also not wanting to be thought a liar.

It's okay, that's his son

It all comes together to make a movie that is plausible, powerful, and pertinent — and kinda depressing for it, to be frank. I don’t want to spoil the ending (though I will say: dog lovers beware), but however it turns out legally for Lucas, the film suggests the reality of such situations: that some people will always follow the maxim “there’s no smoke without fire”. Once accusations have been made, is there ever really any going back?

5 out of 5

The Hunt is on BBC Two tonight at 12:25am, and will be available on iPlayer for a week afterwards.

It was viewed as part of my Blindspot 2018 project, which you can read more about here.

2 thoughts on “The Hunt (2012)

  1. This is another of those films hanging around on the to-watch list on Amazon etc (Gods of Egypt, yeah that’s another one) which I somehow never seem to get around to. Is it simply a case of there being just too much content these days, of over-saturation and availability? I was chatting with my wife the other night about films and I swear I was a complete blank on one or two which she swore we’d seen. I have no reason to doubt her, but I used to have such a good memory of movies. It worried me a little, but she diplomaticaly said that we just watch too many movies and tv shows now. Its all a blur after awhile.

    Compare this to the old days (bad old days? I’m not so sure) of films being at the pictures and then years away from a tv showing, of maybe a weekly video rental on VHS, certainly no buying of movies or tv shows. The content was less easily accessed and conversely it was likely valued more. These days $200 milion blockbusters end up in the bargain bin far too soon. Within a year of release sometimes. The idea of Jaws being in a supermarket bargain bin in 1976 is horrifying to me.

    Is the reason I value 1970s films so highly partly because they date from an era that films were indeed more aloof/highly prized/special/rare? I wonder.

    What exactly any of this has to do with The Hunt though is anybody’s guess. Anyway, good to know its worth catching up with (eventually).

    Liked by 1 person

    • And the broader one’s taste, the worse it is. When Arrow/Criterion/etc announce a new selection of titles there’s always a flood of comments about how disappointing the lineup is, or that certain genres (or even specific films) aren’t there, and the company has completely sold out their core audience, it’s all terrible, etc, etc, etc. But, personally, there’s pretty much always several titles in every announcement that interest me — it’s almost a relief on the rare occasion there’s nothing I fancy, because it’s not as if I don’t have enough to catch up on! If you only have a specific interest or two then it’s great there’s so much stuff available nowadays, because your niche(s) will be well catered for; but if you like loads of different things… eesh!

      Another thought: it makes complete sense that this has only got worse with time, because the more time passes the more stuff there is. Logical, innit.

      Liked by 1 person

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