The Hunt (2012)
(Original Danish language, English subtitles)
I had read good reviews of this film at the time, so was pleased to see it being shown by the BBC. Mads Mikkelsen is a Danish actor well-known to international audiences, appearing in such blockbusters as ‘Doctor Strange’, and ‘Casino Royale.’ In this film, his part is that of an ordinary man, a quiet divorcee living in rural Denmark. It is a small community, and Lucas (Mikkelsen) is a teacher at the local nursery school, popular with the children and staff alike.
Some scene-setting shows him out with his male friends; drinking, bonding, and hunting deer. He has problems getting access to his son, as his relationship with his ex-wife is a difficult one. His best friends Theo and Agnes live nearby, and their daughter Klara is a pupil at the school where Lucas works. Klara really likes Lucas. She often gets him to walk her to school, and asks to walk his dog too. Though she is too young to be out alone, Klara also wanders off, waiting around near the local supermarket hoping to see Lucas.
One day at school, Klara gives Lucas a present of a plastic heart, and tries to kiss him. He tells her that this is wrong, but she doesn’t understand. Later, she makes an accusation of sexual misconduct against him to the headmistress, Grethe. After thinking about what the little girl has said, the next day Grethe confronts Lucas. Despite his denials, she suspends him, informs the police, and tells all the parents what has happened too. Things start to get bad for Lucas, very quickly.
What follows is an all-too plausible scenario of the impact of this accusation in a very close-knit community. Events escalate as more children are questioned, and add to the first allegation. Lucas can only watch in disbelief as former friends turn on him, and his everyday life becomes a living nightmare. Mikkelsen is flawless in the role of Lucas. I managed to forget that he was an international star, and to become immersed in the pain and anguish of his character. The other actors are not so well-known outside of Denmark, but this was a positive thing, giving the film real impact that at times made it feel like a documentary. Tiny Annika Wedderkopp is simply amazing in the role of young Klara. She acts with a talent that belies her youth, and projects a range of emotions that also drive along the story. This is an important film about the way society reacts to a specific event, and I was riveted, despite the familiar theme.
Considering the subject matter, nothing sexual is ever shown, though there is some violence between adults. The assertion throughout that children are always believed; that they are not natural liars so any allegation must be considered to be true, leaves the viewer realising that Lucas is in a situation that could happen to anyone anywhere. This is where the film delivers the most impact, and started to remind me of the Salem Witch Trials centuries earlier.
Mikkelsen won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance as Lucas, and the film was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the BAFTA and Oscar ceremonies. You will understand why.
Here’s the official trailer.