One of the better-received films to come out of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival was Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt. Response was so positive for the film at the festival that its star Mad Mikkelsen came out of it with the festival’s Best Actor Award in tow. Unfortunately, The Hunt faced a long road to release in the United States. Its American release was almost immediately postponed until 2013, and I was unable to see it while it was in limited release during the summer. Finally, it was released on DVD this past week where it revealed itself to be a very difficult film to sit through. That being said The Hunt is a fantastic study of community and how one small lie can have drastic repercussions for an entire town.
The Hunt follows Lucas (Mads Mikkelson), a divorced father who is working at the kindergarten school in a small Danish town. After being exposed to pornographic material and vocabulary by her older brother, kindergarten student Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) accuses Lucas (who also happens to be her father’s best friend) of sexually assaulting her. The accusation quickly causes the entire community to unravel. The film is directed by Thomas Vinterberg (director of the acclaimed Danish film, The Celebration) and is written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm (who also wrote another acclaimed 2013 foreign film in A Hijacking).
This is a really tough film to sit through as it deals with a difficult subject matter and does it with a lot of frankness. That being said a lot of the actions the characters take seem a bit ridiculous (especially the ones taken by the head of the kindergarten school). In the end, the character actions only become a minor quibble, as Vinterberg drives the message of his film home very efficiently. A person’s reputation means a lot to this film, and Vinterberg makes sure that you don’t forget it. While the ending of the film seems a little ridiculous at first, Vinterberg includes one final moment that you won’t be able to get out of your head for weeks.
The cast is all around fantastic. Mads Mikkelsen gives an incredible performance that adds a new layer to an actor that Americans only know as the guy who plays villainous characters. It’s not at all a surprising performance, but it is nice to see Mikkelsen give a more complete performance for once. Almost as good as Mikkelsen is Thomas Bo Larsen as the father of Klara and Lucas’ best friend. It’s a much more subdued performance than the craziness going around him, but Larsen nails it. Annika Wedderkopp also succeeds much more than the vast majority of child actors could in a similar role. The supporting cast is pretty great too as Alexandra Rapaport (as Lucas’ love interest) and Lars Ranthe (as the lone friend who supports Lucas) are the main standouts.
The Hunt is a powerful film that can be quite hard to watch, but if you stick with it, you will be rewarded.