English Title: The Hunt
Original Title: Jagten
Country: Denmark, Sweden
Language: Danish, English, Polish
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Music: Nikolaj Egelund
Cinematography: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
Thomas Bo Larsen
Anne Louise Hassing
Sebastian Bull Sarning
Watching Thomas Vinterberg’s widely acclaimed 2012 drama is a smarting experience because it is plain against our nature to watch a man being wrongly accused of a crime he hasn’t committed, yet he has to live through its unpleasant repercussions. Lucas (Mikkelsen, in his Cannes BEST ACTOR winning role) is a divorced kindergarten teacher, a tender-hearted, restrained man who loves his work, then one day, out of blue, he is accused of sexually abusing Klara (Wedderkopp), the young daughter of his best friend Theo (Larsen). Soon, his entire life begins to unravel, and from the beginning, Vinterberg gives audience a clear view that Lucas is innocent, so by accompanying him through his purgatory, everyone in front of the screen can ask himself/herself the disheartening question, what is wrong with our society?
The first thing jumps into my mind is the disintegration of trust among people, not only among those casual acquaintances, but dear friends, it is far too quickly for Theo and his wife Agnes (Hassing) choosing the side of their daughter without trying to get the whole picture, or at the very least, give Lucas a chance to explain himself after the initial shock, he is their old friend, he deserves that, that’s how fragile the bond of friendship, of trust can be broken, just by one false accusation.
Then who should be answered for this unfair deal? Klara, a precocious girl who is habitually ignored by her parents and develops an inchoate affection towards the kind Lucas, becomes intuitively vindictive when Lucas reclines her present: a heart-shape ornament she has made for him, and invents Lucas’ indecent behavior to Grethe (Wold), the prudish kindergarten director. There is something uncannily disturbing in the story of Klara, in a subconscious sense and at that formative age, her premature mindset is a waking-up call for parents who take for granted of a child’s inherent innocuousness, it is the bad seed which will flourish in adulthood if ignored. Yet apparently Vinterberg doesn’t intend to burrow into that contentious moral compass, Klara is the origin of the misdeed, but not the culprit because she has no inkling of what kind of damage her words can cause in the first place, a chilling reconciliation scene between her and Lucas betokens a positive vibe of this dark tale.
So let’s talk about Grethe, in any rate, she is shown as the main drive force behind the accusation, a woman who is so jaundiced in her preconceptions of the affair and unwisely or maybe unwittingly misconducts herself in tackling with the thorny issue, plus there is a self-congratulatory satisfaction in playing the role as a moral defender regardless of whether it is true or not, a typical canker of luxuriating in one’s designated authority only to fulfill one’s own self-worth in lieu of remaining dispassionate and objective. Finally, there is the self-righteous mob, blindly chooses to jump on the bandwagon as long as they can feel superiority and have someone else to pillory, a convenient and feel-good vent for their respective frustrations engendered from their respective lives, a horror has been rammed home by this compelling cautionary tale.
Mikkelsen is indubitably fascinating to watch, his harrowing gazing is searingly indelible in the climatic church scenes (which is also captured by the film’s poster). All the supporting players dutifully takes on their various tasks as cogs in the wheel, in particular Wedderkopp, a very delicate role for a kid of her age, and a tangible ambiguity is amazingly elicited under Vinterberg’s supervision. Established as a stalwart raconteur and a bellwether of Dogme95 movement, Vinterberg eventually finds the equilibrium between his full-grown aesthetics and biting social critique with the advent of THE HUNT, much kudos to that!