Synopsis: A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son’s custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrom
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Running Length: 115 minutes
TMMM Score: (8.5/10)
Review: Life experience has taught me that there are some lies we desperately want to believe and some truths too horrible to fathom and that seems to be the thread at the core of the searing drama The Hunt (Jagten). There’s something about the way a foreign film pulls no punches that maximizes the impact of our experience as audience members – though I can easily see The Hunt being remade in the US I can’t imagine how the overall energy of the movie could be duplicated.
In a sleepy Denmark town, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen, Casino Royale) is an assistant teacher at a school working primarily with younger children. A divorced father that keeps to himself but is well respected (at a distance) by his fellow teachers and townspeople, he seems to have a life that is arranged to his liking. Though he doesn’t see his son as often as he’d like, you get the impression this is a man that goes with the flow and doesn’t disturb the peace.
When a lie involving Lucas spreads like wildfire through the school and town, his life is turned upside down in tragically terrible ways. Try as he might, Lucas fights a battle where the odds were never in his favor and we can only watch as this good man is enveloped by darkness. This is a film that from start to finish has an ominous feel that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat until the credits roll, never quite sure how everything will unfold (or unravel).
Director Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration) co-wrote the film with Tobias Lindholm and both men have the appropriate amount of compassion for their lead character even as they continue to find ways to ensnare him. I usually have a problem with films that have multiple climaxes but in the case of The Hunt each coda and an unforgettable epilogue only deepen the resolution in most satisfying way.
Mikkelsen deservedly won the Best Actor award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival for his sympathetically shattering turn here…a far cry from the villains he’s portrayed on screens both large and small (he also plays Hannibal Lecter on NBC’s hit show). There’s a scene near the end of the film where Mikkelsen sits alone on a night that people should be together and his loneliness is palpable and terribly sad. Even if things are sorted out, we doubt that anything will ever be the same for him again.
This is one of those movies that has the tendency to slip by mature, intelligent audiences and I’d urge you to make the effort to track this one down. It’s one of the best films I saw in 2013 and months later I’m still haunted by Mikkelsen’s performance.