Hunt, The (2012): Vinterberg’s Powerful Child Abuse Drama, Starring Mads Mikkelsen

“The Hunt,” Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s new film, is a compelling, sharply focused, if stylistically conventional, drama about the effects of a false accusation of child abuse on the life of an innocent man

World premiering at the 2012 Cannes Film Fest, “The Hunt” should travel the global festival road and appeal to upscale arthouse audiences in the U.S. Magnolia is releasing the film stateside in July of 2013, a full year after its Cannes bow.

Mads Mikkelsen, who deservedly won the Best Actor kudo in Cannes is known to international audiences from his performance as James Bond’s nemesis in “Casino Royale,” and so his name and marquee value could be exploited to enhance the picture’s visibility.

After a stunning debut, “The Celebration,” 12 years ago, which also dealt with sexual abuse and also played at the Cannes Film Fest, where it won a major award, Vinterberg struck bad luck, or made the wrong choice of material, with three poorly received films.

A stronger film on many levels, “The Celebration” established Vinterberg’s international reputation and also helped to promote the new movement, Dogme 95, though it was not the first product of this rigorous ideological platform.

Co-written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm (who collaborated on a former film, “Submarino”), “The Hunt” introduces his appealing hero, Lucas, a recently divorced kindergarten teacher, as a kind and gentle man.

One of Lucas’ cute kindergarten girls, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), who’s upset by her parents’ constant arguments, takes special liking to Lucas, and asks him to take her to school, innocently holding his hand as they walk together down the street. One thing leads to another, and soon Klara is interrogated by the severe head, Grethe (Susse Wold) of the children’s center.

Confronted by direct questioning, Klara becomes overly defensive and curiously insecure. Though she never verbalizes or articulates Lucas’ specific misconduct, she leads the supervisor, her parents, and the police to believe that he had exposed himself and let her touch his penis.

As a result, the innocent, angelic-looking Karla is perceived as a victim by every member of the community. However, while Karla herself adopts this perception, she also reveals elements of doubt in both her words and conduct.

Lucas’ teenage son, Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom), lives with his mother, but there’s strong bond between the two men, and
Marcus makes no secret of the fact that he would rather live with his father. Hot-headed and angry, it’s Marcus who confronts directly the accusing family and their daughter.

Vinterberg establishes right away that his likeable protagonist is falsely accused of sexual abuse of the child of his neighbors, who are also his best friends. His concern is to show the devastating ripple effects of a lie, made under family and other communal pressures, by the little girl.

As director, Vinterberg has made a number of shrewd decisions. First, he keeps his hero in the dark for as long as he can. Lucas is not told which of the kids had complained about his conduct.

Second, he keeps Lucas center-stage, showing all the events from his perspective. We see how he is stigmatized and ostracized by various individuals and groups in his community; at one point, he is even arrested by the police.

“The Hunt,” which deservedly garnered Mikkelsen the Actor kudo at Cannes Film Fest, is Vinterberg’s best film since “The Celebration.”

Credits

Magnolia release
Nordisk Film Distribution release of a Zentropa Entertainments presentation.
Produced by Sisse Graum Jorgensen, Morten Kaufmann.
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg.
Screenplay: Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm.

Cast

Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrom, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hassing, Lars Ranthe, Alexandra Rapaport.