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Friday, April 5

Jagten- The Hunt

Some directors simply like to take their time before making a second incredible movie, either out of a sense of self-criticism or the kind of self-discipline that prevents them from ever making bad films. Whatever the reason, it took Thomas Vinterberg, co-founder of Dogme 95, 14 years to succeed in creating an incredible story in The Hunt (2012), a drama starring Mads Mikkelsen. The film takes place in a small Danish village around Christmas and weaves around Lucas, a kindergarten teacher who is wrongly accused of child abuse. Before any other comments are made, it needs to be said that the film competed at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival where Mads Mikkelsen won the Best Actor Award for his role.

Right from the start, I must confess to my admiration towards the acting of Mads Mikkelsen, whose extraordinary role left me speechless; he uses his face, his eyes and his gestures to render the excruciating pain he is going through, with such dignity and honesty that the viewer is baffled and instantly drawn to the character. There is a certain frailty behind the sad gazing eyes and, at the same time, a strength - that of his convictions - which make his character a truthful, complex one. Victim to the collective wave of hate of his friends and neighbours, Lucas never once feels resentful towards little Klara- the little girl he, so kindly befriends, every time they meet but who wrongly accuses him of indecent conduct- and he never changes his behaviour towards her, either. Although Klara later confesses to having said a lie, the wheel of mass hysteria has started rolling and adults are no longer rational and detached. A good friend, an honest lover, a true pal and a loving father, Lucas is turned into a heartless, sick paedophile who, apparently, has been taking advantage of most of the kids in the kindergarten. It is simply amazing how the director manages to reverse the initial calm and ordinary life scenes into a chaos that escalates rapidly towards disaster.

There are moments when you feel things are about to get out of hand and when everything is on the point of turning into absurd, but the director alternates the dramatic, tense moments with peaceful, calm ones, keeping the action into balance. It is so amazing how you don't even get to question the issue of Lucas hiring a lawyer or how you don't seem to notice that it is not about the legal trial, it is about a mad mob who seems to be making the accusations and, at the same time, passing judgement. Lucas himself is rather concerned about explaining and justifying himself to his friends and neighbours than taking the whole matter to the law- which makes The Hunt such a non-American movie. It is the final moments of the movie, though, that leave the viewer absolutely breathless- the moment when Lucas is almost shot/intentionally spared and he has to confront his accuser- in the unexpected turn of events, in the final instance of that collective hunt that happens during his son's first hunt, as a man. Lucas has been kindly accepted back, a year later, in the middle of his friends and neighbours, with hugs and kisses, but the last scene of the movie is a permanent reminder of the lack of trust and reputation that will never be completely restored. And this is not an accidental thing, it is so obviously related to his son's rite of passage, as a warning against Lucas's soft spot: his son, Marcus.
I have always believed that, regardless of the genre, children make the best catch for the success of a movie. It is their innocence, the discrepancy between their fresh, childish appearance and the unexpected vile behaviour that softens the viewers' heart up to the moment of revealing their true nature and intentions. Even in Thomas Vinterberg's movie, Klara has the gracious look of an angel, but the moods, the meanness, the need for attention of a grown-up who shatters to pieces a man's life, on a whim. But, whereas we can easily forgive her trespasses, it is the adults who cast the sinful stones, that are beyond repair. You don't need a rifle to kill a man's soul, blunt prejudgement can ruin his life as well and this is sheer proof of our humane weakness and limitation.