The Hunt (2012) / Drama

MPAA Rated: R for sexual content including a graphic image, nudity, violence and language
Running Time: 115 min.

Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrom, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hassing, Lars Ranthe, Alexandra Rapaport
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Screenplay: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm

Review published February 4, 2014

Mads Mikkelsen (Clash of the Titans, Casino Royale) stars as Lucas, a divorced kindergarten instructor who finds not only his job, but his entire livelihood in a small, tightknit Danish town on the line when he becomes the victim of an untruth told by one of the students, Klara (Wedderkopp), that he may have behaved sexually inappropriate around her. Not only does he lose his job, but Klara is also the daughter of his best friend Theo (Larsen, The Biggest Heroes), who refuses to associate with him any longer because Karla never lies, or so he thinks. The news of this soon spreads like wildfire throughout the town, as he finds many doors beginning to slam on him from people who were once his friends. The more he tries to assert his innocence, the more the hornets nest is shaken up internally, and Lucas begins to fear for his very life.

The Hunt is a provocative look at the nature of rumors and accusations, and how unsavory news is readily believed and becomes hardened by the minute in the minds of the people who hold rumors in their minds. Much of the tension of the film comes from our knowledge of Lucas's innocence, and the frustration we feel at each instance of the benefit of the doubt not only going against him, but also in how cold and callous others become toward him without any firsthand knowledge of the situation. As such, the film turns from what might have been a standard mystery "did he or didn't he?" into an absorbing study of the snowball effect of mob mentality, even in a town in which everyone knows everyone else.

The film also frustrates in the questions not asked. Karla on several occasions seems to equivocate on whether she should have told her lie, but the parents continue to believe that her original lie, especially after the school's principal instructs the parents that she might even renege on her earlier statement as part of her guilt. Except, rather than inquire further into the matter, she sees it as her duty to tell as many people as possible, and even suggests to them that he is most certainly guilty and that their own children are likely to have been victims. Meanwhile, Lucas can't seem to find any way to help himself with his comments to others, as conversations are filled with terse statements and answering of questions with questions, rather than a vehement denial. As a defender of his honor, Lucas doesn't do himself many favors.

While there are many admirable qualities and thought provoking elements to The Hunt to garner it a solid recommendation, some of the above frustrations that occur can be viewed also as story contrivances, as it seems that many of the things not asked and not said between characters are what's really responsible for the rumors spreading around, rather than just the vendetta of overzealous whistleblowers and overly protective parents. The 'hunt' of the title not only refers to the local pastime of hunting for the local fauna, but also the metaphoric defenselessness of Lucas's position as the town's #1 target of derision.  He's a monster to be loathed, feared and corralled.

Beautifully presented by director and co-writer Thomas Vinterburg (The Celebration, Submarino), along with co-scripter Tobias Lindholm (A Hijacking, R), The Hunt turns what could have been a familiar drama into unexpected places, as the behavior of the town is one of severe confusion and distortion of newfound emotions, as they seem to have once deeply liked Lucas as a person, but find they must turn their backs on him for the disgusting behavior they're convinced he is guilty of. Mikkelsen delivers a strong performance, even if his character sometimes behaves in a manner most would think they might not in that situation. It's a very well-made drama that offers plenty to mull over long afterward regarding the nature of rumors and the darker side of collective human nature.

Qwipster's rating:

2014 Vince Leo