CAPSULE: In a small town in Denmark a popular kindergarten teacher is accused of sexual misconduct with first one and later with many children. Lucas (played by Mads Mikkelsen) struggles against a gossip-fed witch-hunt of hatred and prejudice that threatens to destroy his life. Thomas Vinterberg directs and co-authors a film that makes a very interesting companion piece to his THE CELEBRATION (1998). This will certainly be one of the best films of the year. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10
Lucas is a well-regarded kindergarten teacher in a somewhat isolated Danish village. He has a good relationship with all the kids. One of his favorites is the angelic Klara who loves Lucas and his dog. Klara's father is Lucas's best friend. One day Klara, disappointed that Lucas would not accept her valentine, makes up a story that is interpreted by an adult that Lucas has sexually abused her. That turns out to be one accusation for which it is impossible to prove oneself innocent. Klara admits to her parents that she had lied only to have them reject her confession and continue to believe the charge. The child is questioned suggestively so anything she says makes Lucas look guiltier.
Where possible deviant sex with children is concerned the people of the town are simply not ready to believe anything but bad or worse. The school will not stand by Lucas while more and more of the town gives way to gossip as the lie spreads contagiously. Lucas is divorced and has nearly lost contact with his son, but this makes him all the more resolved that he will not throw out another life and start over a third time. But even those closest to him cannot be sure they are absolutely on his side.
The film is directed and co-written by Thomas Vinterberg who also directed THE CELEBRATION (1998) on a related theme. His story combines aspects of Lillian Hellman's "The Children's Hour" and Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People." THE HUNT also could have been inspired by the McMartin Preschool Incident and Trial in which the court decided that false memories of sexual abuse had been planted in children's heads. One would hope the court ruling would end the matter, but some accusations it is impossible to be found completely innocent of in the public's mind. Humans bear strong instincts to protect the young and those instincts are hard to overcome with logic. The school principal insists against all evidence that children do not lie. It is a pleasant fantasy, but while it might be nice to believe it, it is false. And here that fantasy could destroy a man's life.
Lucas is played by Mads Mikkelsen, best known to me as the villain Le Chiffre from CASINO ROYALE (2006) and as Struensee from last year's excellent A ROYAL AFFAIR (2012). Mikkelsen also is the title character in TV's "Hannibal." He is a fascinating actor with the sort of face that suggests fires going on behind his eyes.
Alfred Hitchcock made several films about accused innocent men; THE 39 STEPS, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and FRENZY come to mind. His films all return the man character to normality when the story is over and his accusers have been proved wrong. In the real world things are not nearly so neat, unfortunately. This is a serious treatment of what it is to be in that position, and it is much more disturbing than anything in a Hitchcock thriller. I rate THE HUNT a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10. This is *not* a Dogme 95 film, incidentally.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2106476/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_hunt_2013/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2013 Mark R. Leeper