The Hunt (Danish, Amazon Prime Video)
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen,Alexandra Rapaport,Thomas Bo Larsen as Theo, Lucas’ best friend,Lasse Fogelstrøm, ,Annika Wedderkopp as Klara
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Rating: **** ½
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen who is currently in the news for having replaced Johnny Depp in the Fantastic Beasts franchise is an actor of immense aptitudes. He has been cast repeatedly in villains’ roles. It takes a director with some insight into human nature to cast Mikkelsen as a victim rather than a perpetrator.
The Danish phenomenon plays Lucas an affable kind gentle kindergarten teacher whose well-appointed life comes crashing down when a little girl wrongly accuses him of sexual misconduct . It is important to notice that Lucas’ non-guilt is never questionable. The director plays no hide ‘n’ seek with us. We know Lucas did no wrong. This is what makes The Hunt(original Danish title Jagten) so unique and relevant.
At a time when so many innocent people find themselves behind bars for sexual crimes that they are accused of committing only because the woman is always supposed to be telling the truth, I found The hunt to be stunning devastating and authentic.
Piece by piece, Lucas’ life is dismantled. His relationship with his girlfriend Nadja(Alexandra Rapaport) is messed up, his equation with his teenaged son is under pressure(Luckily for Lucas his son believes in his father’s innocence) and his association with his best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) is destroyed because the little girl Klara who makes the life-destroying accusation is Theo’s daughter.
Some of the plot twists are highly dramatic and even improbable. This in no way takes away from the persuasive power of this pertinent parable on crime and innocence. Once Lucas is cleared of all charges the plot becomes a twisted grotesque pantomime of mob lynching.
The way Lucas fights back is not always convincing. But always compelling . This is a film where the greatness of intent is matched by the execution of the material .Thomas Vinterberg’s direction is magnificently minimal.While the images shots and frames are shorn of decoration underneath the surface austerity the director is constantly exploring the dynamics of a value system where a law-abiding individual’s right to exist in a civil society can be questioned anytime.
If the entire community’s belief in Lucas’ guilt were not so tragic, this would have great comedy.Nothing in The Hunt is amusing. Mad Mikelsen plays the desperately doomed teacher with a grim force.The performance rightly won him the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Little Annika Wedderkopp as the accuser Klara is incredibly mature. The way her lips twist slightly when she tells her lies or contemplates the damage done by her lies, is indicative of how instinctively she understood the accused’s predicament and yet how woefully incapable she is of stopping the damage.Once the damage is done it is done for good.And that’s bad.