The Hunt (2012)
Director: Thomas Vinterberg | Runtime: 1h 55min | Drama | Language: Danish
Lucas’ (Mads Mikkelsen) life becomes forever altered when his best friend’s daughter accuses him of inappropriate behaviour. With the accusation looming over his head, Lucas tries to navigate everyday life and pays the consequences for the little white lie.
The Hunt comes from now legendary Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg, who’s most notable accomplishment is being one of the founding members (along with Lars Von Trier) of the Dogme movement. Both directors show a keen interest in the breakdown of a production while always finding a way to be provocateurs, and even though Lars Von Trier has held onto that mantra for a long time, Vinterberg has strayed away from this style and in turn has become a much more mature filmmaker. With his best example of maturity coming from his award winning drama about a lonely man who’s life is forever altered by a single little lie.
In the current climate this film may actually be considered a risk, with Vinterberg’s portrait of innocence clashing slightly with the fluctuation of guilty predators over the past number of years, especially in the movie industry. But the truth is that the picture being painted is still one of reality, and thanks to a pitch perfect performance and delicate storytelling you are able to feel the gravity of the films message course through you from beginning to end. The film begins with Lucas in his day-to-day life, and the profound affect he has on the people around him, in particular his best friend’s daughter – Klara (Annika Wedderkopp).
Vinterberg delicately builds the relationship between Lucas and Klara, as well as his relationship with everyone else, making it very clear just what this story is about, and no looming mystery of ‘did he’ or ‘didn’t he’. Vinterberg successfully builds his movie without heroes and villains, but rather strains it beautifully with reality, making it all the more difficult to watch as Lucas’ life slowly crumbles around him. As you can imagine Klara’s lie is quickly taken seriously, and Lucas’ newfound happiness of his girlfriend, and relationship with his son is shattered to an unrepairable extent.
Although you cannot call any of the scenes soft, some of the early scenes are less impactful than the final hour of the film, but this all adds to the slow-build Vinterberg is going for and in turn earns every emotional reaction you get. Once the film reaches this final hour it becomes emotionally exhausting, as Lucas is beaten in a supermarket, arrested and his only remaining companion (his dog) is brutally attacked. All of this, while maybe a little excessive, is showing a reality at it’s most devastating.
What pushes this film so much though is it’s exploration, spending it’s down time exploring the affects these accusations have on not just Lucas, but Klara, her father (played wonderfully by Vinterberg regular Thomas Bo Larsen), and in some of the most devastating scenes, Lucas’ son. Vinterberg makes a huge leap by taking Lucas out of the picture for at least 20 minutes, and spends them with Marcus (his son), who desperately navigates his neighbourhood in search of answers and some kind of clarity. This shift in character not only adds scene after scene of devastating emotion but layers the films message with the realisation that these accusations do not just affect one person, but alters the very fabric of their family. This 20 minutes merely explores and expands on the film’s ideas, and in turn make this film dense with thought provocation.
For all of Vinterberg’s genius the real reason you feel such a raw presence throughout the film is because of it’s performances, most notably from Mads Mikkelsen. As one of the most revered stars working today it’s no surprise he can handle the material, but it cannot be understated just how perfect he portrays Lucas. As the film quickens and the emotion become louder Mikkelsen rightly parallels it with unflinching emotion and despair, capturing every inch of depth that this film is requiring, leaving his performance rightfully ingrained in your mind till the very end. An ending that, while on the surface looks satisfying, but in reality shatters any illusion of the ‘happy ending’ and represents the true nature of the films themes.
You could argue that Vinterberg’s history as a provocateur does help with the uncompromising approach this film has, exploring in depth every aspect of it’s stories and characters. But where the film really finds it’s integrity is in the directors maturity, which showcases an accurate balance of subtlety and much needed emotionality all while being anchored by a central performance that is arguably Mads Mikkelsen’s career best.