The Hunt is a mesmerizing film that will haunt you long after it's over.
No film released this year has left me more shattered during its end credits than Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt. The film has moments of immense power and at times is very hard to watch. The story, co-written by Vinterberg, lives on the heartstrings of its characters, led by a towering performance from Danish leading man Madds Mikkelsen.
Lucas (Mikkelsen) is a divorced man who works at an elementary school. Right away we are shown Lucas loves his job and his fellow teachers as well as the kids at the school love him. At every moment the kids seem to be tackling him, laughing as they do it. He is a modest man who is a little on the quiet side. I remember scenes of him nonchalantly walking to and from school, enjoying his surroundings with every step he takes.
Lucas’ best friend for the past 20 years has been Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen). Theo’s 5 year old daughter, Klara, attends the same school where Lucas teaches at. Klara develops a small innocent crush on Lucas and in one scene approaches him about it. Lucas dismisses her notion, but Klara retaliates by telling the principal that he molested her. The remainder of the film deals with the outcome of the event. Lucas’ life slowly begins to unravel one piece at a time. At first the principal suggests that he should not come to school for a while, but before long he is told he doesn’t have a job anymore. His girlfriend sticks with him until his depression is eventually too much for her to handle.
What impressed me most about Vinterberg’s scintillating film is how real all the events felt, especially the characters and their motivations and reactions to everything that happens. In one scene, Theo, who, remember, has been best friends with Lucas for 20+ years, threatens to kill him if everything his daughter has said turns out to be true. In another scene close friends and family of Lucas rally around him to support him; I feel like in lesser movie he would’ve been alone to drive the isolation theme home.
As mentioned before, The Hunt is a very hard film to watch at times. Much of it is Lucas suffering as people around him ex-communicate him as he tries to prove his innocence. Some of these scenes, however, I felt were taken in the wrong direction by Vinterberg. One scene involving Lucas’ teenage son going to Theo’s home (during a gathering with their friends and family nonetheless) seems completely unnecessary. I understand what the point Vinterberg was trying to make, but I feel like the scene just didn’t need to belong in this film.
Another scene has Lucas being assaulted at a grocery store by the staff who tells him he isn’t welcome. After refusing to leave they beat him up and end up throwing canned goods at him as he lies defenseless on the ground. The result of this scene is Theo watching from his car in the parking lot as Lucas walks away morally deflated at how the community is treating him. In my opinion, this scene was little over the top.
While a couple of scenes felt out of place, there is no denying how great this film is. Vinterberg handles The Hunt with elegance and Mikkelsen is hypnotic in the lead performance (he would get an Oscar nomination if I were voting). The closing scenes of the film suggest that while you may be proven innocent, you will have to look over your shoulder for the rest of your life because not everyone will be convinced of your innocence. Vinterberg’s film is not only scary in how proficient it is, but also in how close to reality it is. The Hunt is a mesmerizing film that will haunt you long after it’s over.