When tackling a story of alleged impropriety the danger of audience alienation runs high. Thankfully here the focus on unfounded accusations and their brutal effects makes a potentially unpalatable story absorbing.
Aided by a Cannes award winning performance, The Hunt fixes on the fallout for Mads Mikkelsen’s (Casino Royale) nursery teacher Lucas, after his pupil and best friend’s young daughter Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) confusingly accuses him of indecency.
Mass hysteria in the rural Danish town spreads venomously to demonise Lucas instantly, a man already simmering-under after the break-up of his marriage.
Director Thomas Vinterberg aims on the lasting damage of suspicion and the irrecoverable hurt caused by assertively dispelling any doubt of Lucas’ innocence early on. Any mystery is shelved to plot a story of increasing paranoia and pitiful breakdown.
The feeling of injustice is palpable as colleagues draw rapid conclusions and utterly mishandle any responsibility of confidentiality. A commentary that while an accusation remains just that, the confidences of the alleged must remain intact, albeit virtually impossible in such a close knit community; and in asking one self, would the same conclusion be reached when the power and influence of the grapevine holds strong?
As a social drama The Hunt drives home not just the paranoia felt by Lucas at his growing estrangement but the fragility of a community to dispense with loyalty when such a seemingly deplorable crime has been perpetrated.
The lasting damage of accusation is the final commentary that is best made, with Mikklesen outstanding when portraying a man stripped of dignity, freedoms and in an expertly handled close, a man never truly able to escape the unforgiving intentions of an eternally prejudiced community. Lucas’ determination to remain rather than leave may seem implausible but manages to portray his conviction of innocence and resolve to be vindicated.
The surrounding cast of the town’s kinsfolk are too remarkable and most significantly, genuine. If their actions are at least understandable from their view, so too is their conflict and equal paranoia toward the town villain; most heartbreakingly best friend Thomas Bo Larsen, the father battling opposing convictions and loyalties.
Vinterberg’s direction succeeds greatly in plotting a humble and tense course that even if knowing of innocence, makes Lucas’ journey suspenseful and compelling.
It’s emotionally assured too, with the connection to Son, Lasse Folgestrom played authentically, as he heroically defends his father against the baited residents, taking a kicking on the way in one of several graphic violent scenes. The otherwise curbed pacing makes violent and emotional episodes the more brutal and pitiful.
The Hunt takes a studied approach to the ultimate hot topic with the dispelling of the mystery of did he do it replaced by an accurate study of the fickle loyalties and prejudices that hold firm to the notion of where there is smoke, there is fire; even if without foundation.