DIR: Thomas Vinterberg • WRI: Thomas Vinterberg Tobias Lindholm • PRO: Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Morten Kaufmann • DOP: Charlotte Bruus Christensen • ED: Janus Billeskov Jansen, Anne Østerud • DES: Torben Stig Nielsen • CAST: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrøm
Klara, a young girl who attends a nursery in a rural Danish village, alleges that Lucas, a middle-aged man working there, sexually abused her. Vinterberg’s film examines how the ensuing hysteria in the village affects Lucas.
The premise makes for good drama with excellent performances. Mads Mikkelsen, playing Lucas in a restrained and naturalistic effort, won the Best Actor award at Cannes this year. Little Annika Wedderkopp, as Klara, excels, particularly in scenes where adults question her about the alleged incident. Her little face twitches with uncertainty and confusion as she decides whether or not she should tell the truth.
That she’s lying is never in doubt. Vinterberg’s film challenges the assumption that children always tell the truth. Grethe, who runs to nursery, holds this conviction to Lucas’ detriment. Vinterberg is more interested in how the villagers turn on Lucas and how the hysteria lingers even when it appears to have settled down.
While the film engages, it does feel like something of a missed opportunity. It’s not quite a study of how hysteria develops, or why a child would lie, and it feels a little shallow and predictable in its observations on how the allegations affect one man and his son. The butcher beats Lucas up because he dares to buy chops when he has been banned from the supermarket; someone shoots his dog; and someone throws a rock through his window.
Vinterberg abandons the Dogme rules. It’s unlikely his characters are listening to Van Morrison’s ‘Moondance’ as they prepare to jump into a cold lake. Golden brown leaves glisten in the winter sunlight when the men venture into the forest to hunt. Setting the film in early winter allows Vinterberg to build to a climactic scene where the children from the nursery sing in their innocence at Christmastime. Lucas sits in a room without lights, and a title reveals the dark lonely night to be Christmas Eve. It’s all very contrived.
For the audience, Lucas’ innocence is never in doubt. Here is the loving father whose son wants to come live with him, not his ex-partner. Nadja, who works at the nursery, starts a relationship with Lucas. Her doubts cause Lucas to drive her away once this relationship, and the obligatory sex scene, confirm Lucas’ healthy heterosexual standing.
A missed opportunity: consider the alternatives. Had Vinterberg chosen to be vague about Lucas’ innocence, he could have explored the dynamics in allegations and hysteria in a more interesting way. Consider if Lucas’ child was also a young girl, similar in age to Klara, how that might have played out. Instead, he focuses on a father-son relationship, male bonding and camaraderie. Eventually, Theo, Klara’s father, ‘knows’ just by looking at Lucas, and the men go back hunting the following year as if nothing had happened.
Still, the film keeps one engaged, thanks to good performances and attractive scenery, but it’s no classic, despite the snow, hunters, forests, deer and shots from anonymous man.
Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Hunt is released on 30th November 2012