Cinema Review: The Hunt

 

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.

John Moran

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
115 mins
The Hunt is released on 30th November 2012

The Hunt – Official Website


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Cinema Review: The Three Musketeers

All for one... you first

DIR: Paul W.S. Anderson • WRI: Alex Litvak, Andrew Davies • PRO: Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Robert Kulzer • ED: Alexander Berner • DOP: Glen MacPherson • DES: Paul D. Austerberry • CAST: Orlando Bloom, Mads Mikkelsen, Milla Jovovich, Logan Lerman

Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers is daft. This shouldn’t come as any great revelation however. If you’d encountered any promotional material or even noticed the name Paul W.S. Anderson in the previous sentence, you already knew that. And rest assured there will be a plethora of reviews criticizing it for being too daft, too incoherent and too irreverent toward the classic tale.

But heed not their critiques. If anything, The Three Musketeers, by all accounts, should have been a damn sight dafter! I’m not suggesting Muskehounds, though they couldn’t hurt… Don’t mistake me. This is perhaps the best 110 minutes Anderson has directed in the past 15 years, a powder keg of inventive sets, off-kilter humour, and plentiful B-grade action. That’s no criticism, the swashbuckling is generously shot, clear long takes prevailing and sprinkled with ample invention and stuntwork.

It’s ‘trés bonne’, as the Musketeers would say. If they spoke French. Which they assuredly do not. And that’s without even addressing the utterly preposterous 17th century Zeppelins brawling in the skies above Paris. Which, and this point is worth labouring, is utterly preposterous!

In seeming contradiction with the former paragraphs, you’re still left with the impression Mr Anderson was needlessly restrained. Longer, more plentiful swordfights would benefit everyone, while the set pieces lacked just that dash more bombast. Meanwhile the film’s mirth could have been easily corrected by taking James Cordon and kicking him into the Seine!

Unfortunately the cast seems confused as to the film’s tone. Ray Stevenson (Porthos) and Luke Evans (Aramis) are given precious little to do, besides chop and punch extras while Matthew ‘I can’t believe it’s not Clive Owen’ MacFadyen provides a convincing performances as the jilted Athos in an otherwise intentionally unconvincing role.

The pitch is not helped as Milla Jovovich (Milady… yes, Milady) hams it up in what can only be an intentionally derisive effort, Christoph Waltz plays a cardinal, and is less entertaining than that sounds, and Orlando Bloom, instantaneously forgettable as the Duke of Buckingham, proves why he’s not a bigger star.

But an unsteady tone is easily forgiven when it fluctuates between the comical and the absurd. The Three Musketeers would have improved if left to this chaotic dynamic. However, the presence of Logan Lerman’s D’Artagnan tends to sully the proceedings with mush, spouting tired clichés about ‘being yourself’, ‘making mistakes’ and ‘being in love.’

No one really cares Dogtanian! People parted with hard won cash to watch the clashing of steel against the backdrop of exploding…, well, everything. Why else would you see a Paul W.S. Anderson film?!

Unwanted mush and moderation aside, The Three Musketeers is a more amusing, more exhilarating romp than half the overly-solemn crap released this past summer. And despite what anyone might say regarding narrative, characterisation and pacing, this film features a blimp getting stabbed by a church steeple!

It’s fun. It’s humorous. It’s daft. So why not?

Jack McGlynn

Rated 12A(see IFCO website for details)
The Three Musketeers is released on 12th October 2011

The Three Musketeers – Official Website

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