Film review: The Hunt

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 April, 2013, 9:08am

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lasse Fogelstrom
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Category: III (Danish and English)

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as the saying goes. And in The Hunt's case, many well intentioned adults turn life into a living hell for a fellow member of their at times claustrophobically close-knit town after a child known to have an active imagination accuses him of a terrible act.

The sole male teacher at a kindergarten, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) - who is on first name terms with his students - is popular with both the boys and girls at the liberally run school.

Mild-mannered and not at all villainous (in contrast to the character Mikkelsen played in Casino Royale), the recently divorced father is slowly getting back into dating while trying to get his ex-wife to agree to let his teenaged son, Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom), live with him.

Early in this riveting work, the truly gentle man is shown attracting the affections of fellow kindergarten teacher Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport) - and the interest of kindergarten pupil Klara (Annika Wedderkopp, above with Mikkelsen).

The angelic-looking daughter of his best friend, Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Theo's wife Agnes (Anne Louise Hassing), Klara one day decides to kiss Lucas on the lips - the way that she has no doubt seen her parents doing - and is upset when Lucas tells her it is not an appropriate thing for her to do to him. Lucas then also rejects a gift she tries to give to him.

In a fit of pique, the little girl accuses Lucas of exposing himself to her. After the kindergarten's concerned head teacher Grethe (Susse Wold) brings in a friend to get more details from Klara, the story turns into full-blown accusation of child abuse.

From the way that director Thomas Vinterberg (who also shares scripting credits with Tobias Lindholm) chooses to depict events in the film, it is clear from the start that Lucas is innocent of the crimes he is accused of committing.

The devastating drama and unsettling suspense comes from witnessing how different people react to the slander flung at Lucas, and what becomes of his life when those who should know (him) better turn on one of their own.

The Hunt is a heartbreaking and masterful work that does not make for easy viewing. However, those who watch it will be rewarded with a gripping cinematic experience, memories of which will stay with them for a long time.

The Hunt opens today