TIFF 2012 Day 7: The Hunt & Leviathan

By @cj_prin
TIFF 2012 Day 7: The Hunt & Leviathan

It turned out that the day I was most cautious about was the best experience I had at the festival so far. Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt has been one of the hotter titles here, with praise thrown at it left and right from people who got the chance to see it. I didn’t know much about The Hunt going in, and despite my little knowledge beforehand it didn’t buck the current trend of ‘good not great’ that I’ve been experiencing. Kindergarten teacher Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) has his life turned upside down when a student at his school falsely accuses him of molesting her. The girl has a crush on Lucas, but when he rejects a gift she made for him (which she snuck in his coat shortly before trying to kiss him on the mouth) the girl angrily tells another teacher that he exposed himself to her. What makes this situation even more complicated is that the girl’s father is Lucas’ best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen). The Hunt is a crackling drama that benefits greatly from taking what would be a morally black and white situation and forcing it into a grey area. Every character behaves justifiably (I can’t say the same for their actions), and Vinterberg milks out the intensity of the situation as much as possible. The first hour of the film, with Lucas slowly being ostracized by the town, is mostly predictable until Vinterberg brings in Lucas’ son. The movie shifts its POV to the son, and when we see how the townspeople deem him guilty by association things take an interesting turn. Mads Mikkelsen is terrific as Lucas, but some praise should also go to Bo Larsen who easily sells how conflicted his character is over whether to condemn or stand by his best friend. The Hunt may have been too see-through for me to truly enjoy it, but Vinterberg has crafted a very good movie here.

RATING: 7.5/10

The Hunt movie review
The Hunt

And just as I was lamenting the lack of truly great films at TIFF this year, along comes Leviathan to save the day. As we’ve already mentioned in our trailer postLeviathan is an abstract documentary that was filmed on a fishing boat working around the eastern seaboard. The opening sequence starts out from the point of view of a fisherman hauling in a catch, but suddenly the camera is thrown into the ocean. As the camera bobs up and down in the ocean we get brief glimpses of seagulls flying in the sky. Describing these kinds of scenes don’t do justice to how visceral watching Leviathan is. The use of small GoPro cameras not only gets some amazing footage, it lends an otherworldly quality to what’s on screen. The constant movement makes it impossible to orient oneself, so when the camera catches a net being pulled in during the night it can easily look like some sort of monstrous creature coming out of the water. I don’t see how anyone could watch Leviathan outside of a theatre and get the same impact as watching it on a giant screen. After being assaulted for nearly 90 minutes, the lights came on in the theatre and I suddenly realized that I seemed to have lost my place. Everything around me looked foreign, like I was suddenly dropped into the theatre and trying to figure out where I was. It’s the kind of reaction I’ve never had after watching a film, and it left me feeling euphoric afterwards. Leviathan is the best film of the year for me right now, the kind of movie that makes me realize why I love going to TIFF in the first place.

RATING: 9/10

Leviathan movie review

NEXT UP: Post Tenebras Lux which gained Carlos Reygadas a Best Director prize at Cannes this year. It’ll be followed by When Night Falls, which annoyed the Chinese government so much that they offered to buy the film just so they could bury it. Plus, a review of Motorway.

Recap of some of my Tweets from today:

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