The Hunt (2012)

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So far London Film Festival has offered up a few alright films, one very good and an absolute raspberry. Until The Hunt was screened the only really brilliant film was My Brother The Devil, but now The Hunt has been seen, it’s not an exaggeration to say it’s the best film of the festival and will probably stay that way. It is also extremely difficult to watch and very upsetting. Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a kindergarten teacher who is very good at his job and wonderful with kids. In a small town where everyone knows everyone, his face is known and his friends are parents of his pupils. When Klara, a child with a strong imagination, tells another teacher Lucas abused her sexually, his life spirals into catastrophe as he is shamed throughout the town, not even being allowed to shop in his local supermarket. The more he fights the claim, the less sympathy he receives and he is quickly left to deal with the mess on his own.

The film is a quiet one, bar one or two moments that will make you jump out of your skin, but otherwise it’s a quiet, fairly slowly paced film that takes hold of you and slowly chokes you until you’re gasping for air and willing the credits to roll. It’s harrowing, to say the least. The worst part is the treatment of Klara, as if she’s some kind of heroine. Her questioning with Orla shows how badly handled the situation is with him asking questions such as “Did he make you touch it?” and Klara nodding in agreement, not fully understanding what she’s doing with that simple head movement. Even when she tells her mother she “said something foolish” her mother defends her by saying we try to forget horrible things. The only thing the adults are willing to accept is Lucas as a child molester and not the confession of the girl who first lied and is now telling the truth. As the film progresses you find your heart breaking as Lucas spirals further into his breakdown until a brick comes through the window and he reaches his breaking point on Christmas Eve.

Thomas Vinterberg has done an excellent job of creating tension and too much emotion within  this film. As said before, it chokes you and the fact it’s all so understated and quiet makes it all the more horrifying. The conclusion is the final nail in the coffin as it were. Showing Lucas a year on from the events and apparently accepted back into society, you have to assume Klara’s actual truth was finally believed and all was forgiven. There are however a few looks towards Lucas that suggest otherwise. People seem suspicious and not wholly happy to have him back but nothing is said until the final thirty seconds, and about that I’ll say no more. It’s really remarkable the atmosphere Vinterberg has managed to create. He has created a horror film without the monsters, gore or supernatural happenings so often seen. It’s not billed as a horror film but it’s so horrible the only reaction is a desperate need to run away from it, and a film as affecting as that hasn’t been seen in a while.

It won’t be a surprise if this remains the best film of the festival. It’s early days and there are hundreds to contend with but a film that leaves the viewer shaking and on the verge of tears isn’t one to ignore. Whilst it’s not a pleasant experience, I would urge everyone to get to a showing of The Hunt. Despite being a harrowing and deeply upsetting film, it’s a brilliant one and well worth your time, especially if you don’t believe cinema can affect people that much.

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writers: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp
Runtime: 115 min
Country: Denmark

Film Rating: ★★★★★

3 Comments
  1. Tue Sorensen says

    Wow, 10 stars!! Despite being Danish, I have not even see this yet myself. Looking forward to it!

  2. Chris Knipp says

    It has to be. It’s in my top ten English language films of 2012. Not at the top, but it has to be there.

  3. Chris Knipp says

    Sorry, this comment was meant to go on the LIFE OF PI review. THE HUNT is one we haven’t gotten to see in America. No release and not even shown in festivals. We’re being deprived on this and also on Matteo Garrone’s REALITY, which I thought ought to have been in the NYFF.

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