The Hunt (2013)
Rated – R
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Mads Mikkelson, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp
The Hunt stars Mads Mikkelsen as Lucas, a man going through a tough custody battle with his ex-wife for his son, Marcus. Lucas lives in a small town with a tight community and works as a beloved kindergarten teacher. He loves the kids and the children love him, but a lie crashes Lucas’ world around him and sends him into a dangerous downward spiral.
The film begins with a group of middle-aged men acting childishly by jumping into a lake in the freezing cold. It’s clear they’re life-long friends and this includes Lucas and Theo who are best friends. While Lucas is considered to be lonely and sad, his friend Theo has a wife and two children, Klara who’s in kindergarten and Torsten who’s a teenager. The glass ceiling above Lucas shatters when Klara tells Grethe, Lucas’ supervisor, that he exposed himself to her. Why did she say it? A combination of her innocent crush turning vindictive after she kisses him on the lips, and her older brother showing her a pornographic image on his iPad and teasing her with it.
But one thing leads to another and Lucas is fired from work, exiled from the community, arrested, and more. At first, Lucas believes it’s all going to pass but what he doesn’t understand is that it’s a very serious accusation and one that every parent would believe the child over the adult. This puts Lucas in a very tricky situation and when even his girlfriend expresses her doubts, his rage inside begins. There is a great scene when Lucas visits Theo to discuss the matter after the accusation has been made. The two best friends have never felt more distant in all of their years. The disappointment in Lucas’ face when he sees that Theo believes his daughter’s story is crushing.
Mads Mikkelsen is perfectly cast in this role. With a smile he can be as friendly as anyone in the world, but take that away and he has a creepy vibe about him that certainly wouldn’t surprise me as a pedophile. For Lucas, the nightmare won’t end but is there really anything he could do to change everyone’s mind? Even after Klara admits she made it up, her parents and the adults involved told her she’s confused from her traumatic experience. And even after he’s released from the police because the other children’s stories are proven false, he doesn’t regain the trust of his friends and the community.
Director Thomas Vinterberg has woven an intricate film of how paranoia can trump over the truth during a witch hunt. Shouldn’t Lucas be seen as innocent until proven guilty? But when it’s the word of a child who doesn’t understand how his or her actions can affect someone else’s life, how far can you really go? Sure, children are innocent enough to tell the truth, but they’re also too young to know what’s right and wrong. There is a fine line drawn here and with a topic like this, you want answers whether it’s the truth or not. And the haunting images of the final scene just proves that Lucas will never have the same life again.