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Denmark 2012
Directed by
Thomas Vinterberg
115 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Hunt

Synopsis: Lucas (Mads Mikkelson) is a much-liked kindergarten teacher from a small Danish provincial town. When Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), the daughter of his best friend, Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) tells the kindergarten principal a white lie about Lucas, he finds himself embroiled in a sexual abuse investigation and his whole way of life under threat.

Whilst in terms of subject matter there is a good deal in common with the director’s outstanding 1998 film, Festen, The Hunt is stylistically a more conventional film. For some this will be a good thing but the price paid is a less immersive experience.

The conventionality works most negatively on the script, co-written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, as the forces of what may be variously parental and pastoral care, over-protectiveness, prurient self-righteousness and/or small-mindedness conspire seamlessly to judge and condemn Lucas. There is simply not enough development given to the scenario for it to feel particularly convincing – one minute Lucas is the apple of everyone’s eye, next minute he is a pariah to all but his son and his son’s godfather (and an attractive kindergarten helper).

Here too the casting of Mads Mikkelson, his compelling performance notwithstanding, is problematic. His Lucas is too much the handsomely stoic, steely-jawed hero weathering the storms with the manful rectitude (a persona which admirably suited his role in A Royal Affair) to seem plausible as the object of such unanimous condemnation and abandonment with its destructive psychological effects. A less physically prepossessing, more emotional vulnerable actor such as Stellan Skarsgård would have been much more effective. Although the final scene leaves us with the final word on Lucas’s emotional state, a preceding coda rather too neatly ties up the rifts and estrangements brought about by the incident.

If the film tends to work better as a idea than in terms of it actual realization there is still much here that merits attention. Aside from the harrowing central premise of the false accusation and its impact on Lucas and the community in which he lives, there are broader cultural issues at stake. Not only is the traditional annual deer hunt an analogue to Lucas’s situation as accused but it also function as rite of passage for the male,  with the rifle, passed from Lucas to his son an intriguing phallocentric talisman of membership in this very male-dominated and rather crudely sexist community. It introduces an interesting dual level of significance to accusation of sexual misconduct in this Christian (read sexually repressive) community but the two levels remain dramatically separate, isolated by Lucas’s transcendent or perhaps obtuse insularity.

There is a quality here that suggests Bergman but Vinterberg seems to be too caught up in narrative conventions to strip his story down to its moral core.




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