Vinterberg’s Danish drama, following Mads Mikkelsen’s nursey teacher turned pariah, stormed Cannes and rounded up an impressive trophy case of awards across the board, and rightly so.
The Hunt comes in as Vinterberg’s eighth feature length instalment and by far most widely known and critically acclaimed. The film follows Lucas, a meek and humble nursery teacher with a charming way with children, in particular with latch-key kid and quiet loner Klara. Almost unbeknownst to herself, Klara leads the townspeople into mistakenly thinking that Lucas is a paedophile. As the title suggests, the townspeople, rallied and greatly misinformed amongst the confusion, turn on Lucas and brutality ensues.
The film handles the subject matter delicately and efficiently. Vinterberg presents a narrative in which not so much happens, but at the same time so much is being said. With the advent of recent media storms surrounding famous child abusers, the film seems increasingly more relevant now than perhaps it did in its original release in 2012. With the damage inflicted upon Mikkelsen’s Lucas from a mere accusation, Vinterberg puts society’s witch-hunt culture under a microscope in the microcosm of a small Danish hunting town. The success with regards to the film’s message is in no small part down to the performances of the two leads. Annika Wedderkopp’s Klara steals the spotlight by combining the face of pure innocence with the source of all the film’s negativity. You find yourself battling between utter dislike of an infant and realising that she is, even after the pain she causes, only a child. In one scene Lucas’s teenage son lashes out at Klara leaving you with an odd sense of satisfaction, which, once the film coming to a close, Vinterberg makes you feel incredibly guilty for. Similarly, Mikkelsen’s Lucas transforms from fun loving nursery teacher to utterly broken and hopeless outcast in a display of extreme versatility.
However, outside of the two leads others feel two-dimensional. The film itself is relatively small scale: small-scale narrative, small-scale location and small-scale camera work. Whilst this works well in making the tension and hatred more poignant, there is little room for dead weight in terms of character. Lucas’s love interest, for example, seems arbitrary and without purpose; their romance as a result feels flat and stale. Klara’s father Theo, Lucas’s best friend, flirts confusingly between villainous and sympathetic throughout and anyone else’s name isn’t really worth remembering.
As a whole, The Hunt is a solid drama with brilliant performances that deals with perhaps the most taboo subject we know of today perfectly. Whilst certain characters may deter from the real matter at hand, Vinterberg’s pariah versus community narrative offers a fresh perspective on the power of accusation and people’s willingness to blindly believe the innocence of children.
By Christian McEvoy