BFI London Film Festival
By Anna Bielak | November 13, 2012
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writers: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Alexandra Rapaport, Annika Wedderkopp, Susse Wold, Lasse Fogelstrøm, Anne Louise Hassing
The Hunt‘s viewers occupy a privileged position; Thomas Vinterberg — the acclaimed Danish director — does not play cat and mouse with them. Vinterberg does not force the viewers to solve a criminal’s riddle nor look for a black sheep within the drove. At the very beginning Vinterberg lets us see a little girl lying through her teeth. Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) is sitting in a dark room, all alone, swinging in a chair. She is angry that her very serious childish enchantment with Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) was treated with parental-like forbearance. Connecting many images that she has been able to see during her young life, Klara defines Lucas as a slimy owner of a sticking up willy. Grethe’s (Susse Wold) frigid, yet alarmed, eyes appear in the reverse shot as anxiety grows within this elderly, kindergarten teacher. Where is Lucas now? When did this happen? Has it been going on for a long time? Why does Grethe not notice anything earlier? Several questions resound in her mind. Why don’t any of them call Klara’s story into question? Why is Grethe so sure that the girl tells the truth?
Vinterberg does not answer any of those queries. He would rather show us the course of the lie that grows rank and — like mold — putrefies. The words that Klara has fiddled with were idly spoken and have wide repercussions in this small village society. Everything ends for Lucas. Everybody wonders how it starts? Why does a lonely, divorced man, about forty years old, work in a nursery school? Was it all because of evil will? Or maybe it is rather the effect of the male figure crisis in modern Denmark? At very first glance, Lucas does not defend himself from the accusations — is it because of this peculiar, fashionable male weakness? As Lucas, Mads Mikkelsen phenomenally creates a border of emotions that torment his character; he creates a figure of a man who is conscious about the post-modern civilization of fear. If he wants to survive within a society that protects and appreciates purity, Lucas needs to loose his own innocence. To defend himself, Lucas must use violence, even if civilized man does not approve of that. He has to resign from control of his emotions if he does not want people to think that he is indifferent.
Via Lucas, Mikkelsen leads viewers through a modern world that takes away the children freedom of telling stories; a world that turns kind people into victims, who will remain victims until the end of their lives. For that reason, we should look at Klara with the same eyes we observe Lucas. This girl and that man are two chain links; and the chain is held by parents, friends, neighbors and superiors. They are both victims of words that cannot be forgotten and memories that have been implanted in their minds with a great force of fear. Vinterberg observes individuals through the reminiscences of real stories collected by his psychologist. He accuses the system, not his characters. He minces matters with precision, and does not let them tell too much. He speaks about a modern culture that is now more oppressive than ever, male crisis, memories, guilt, punishment and turning the other cheek. He does this gently and very skilfully. He is not a Dogma-manifesto-boy anymore. Vinterberg is an adult artist who is not afraid of standing face-to-face with the world.