THE HUNT Movie Review
This week, the world will be introduced to Thomas Vinterberg’s latest Danish film The Hunt. From Lars Von Trier’s Zentropa Entertainment, the film has already achieved a lot of buzz and acclaim from some of the best film festivals the world over. A Best Actor win for Mads Mikkelsen at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival was what propelled this film into my own personal ‘Must See’ list this year. While the subject matter here is far from light hearted, it is presented in a surprisingly thoughtful manner. And even though you may feel as if your heart was just torn out and stomped on, the overall construction of the story is delivered so well that when the film ends, you won’t really mind scooping said organ from the floor as you exit the theater.
Mads Mikkelsen stars as kindergarten teacher, Lucas. It’s shown early on in the film that Lucas is well respected and truly cares for all of his students and has a rather special relationship with Klara (Annika Wedderkopp). Being close friends with the girl’s parents, he knows her slightly dysfunctional home life and does his best to take care of her when it’s needed. One day, the girl expresses her affection for Lucas in a way that has him explaining to her that kissing on the lips is reserved for adults. Rejected and sad, Klara tells a little lie that quickly grows into a story of molestation. The rumor grows and soon the tight knit Danish community turns on the innocent kindergarten teacher. Cue the dogs and cats, mass hysteria…all that.
As any one in their right mind would, Lucas attempts to plead his case to those he thought were close to him. However, mob mentality such as this does not operate rationally. Proof or not, the story spreads and this community that celebrates hunting season each year soon sparks a nasty witch hunt of sorts. A whirlwind of threats and abuse leave Lucas wounded and alone. Through beatings and various levels of loss, Lucas does his best to keep on a brave exterior until slowly bottoming out in his forced seclusion and ostracision.
This isn’t the first time Vinterberg has tackled subject matter such as this. His 1998 debut The Celebration followed a similar story but with a darkly satirical style that is completely missing from The Hunt. And it should be. What makes the story in The Hunt all the more heart breaking is knowing from the getgo that Lucas is indeed innocent. Watching the reaction of friends, family and the overall community is terrifying and echoes realities of the overall psyche of human nature.
And can we talk about Mads Mikkelsen for a second? The actor has built a pretty impressive roster of work over the past decade. He’s been a Bond villain, a viking killer and has done a very good job taking on the role of Dr. Hannibal Lector on NBC’s Hannibal. But a role we haven’t seen much from Mikkelsen is that of simply an everyday average man and he gets to play just that with the role of Lucas. Still, Mikkelsen is challenged in the role as he has to travel to many dark places emotionally here that would prove to be a tough task for any actor.
The Hunt is a character driven story and besides Mikkelsen’s masterful performance, the entire cast deserves some recognition. And dare I say Mr. Mikkelsen’s performance wouldn’t have been nearly as strong if it weren’t for that of young Annia Wedderkopp as Karla. For a child of her age, the complexity and weight of the role is taken on with no sign of difficulty on her part. It never feels like she’s acting and her performance provokes thought and evokes emotion at such an organic level, it’s truly impressive.
Let’s be clear here, The Hunt isn’t a fun loving popcorn film. It’ll make you upset and give you a story that is dark and very cynical. But there’s a deep level of truth at this film’s core that explores the different faces of human nature. The Hunt is a beautifully constructed film and may very well see Mr. Mikkelsen picking up more awards by the year’s end. One can only hope.
Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt will hit theaters Friday July 12.