The Hunt Review

If you got to hunt down one member of society, who would you choose?

Lucas is a popular member of a tight knit community in a small and wintery Norwegian town.

He’s loved by the boisterous men he gets drunk and plays poker with, joining in with their macho games of ice swimming, and desired by the womenfolk for his good looks and atypical sensitive, caring nature.

Atypical by this village’s standards anyhow.

But Lucas has fallen on tough times of late. Recently divorced from his wife whose son now lives unhappily with her, Lucas has also lost his teaching job through no fault of his own.

So he passes his time as a substitute teacher at the local primary school until he can find a job that fits his skillset again.

Which works out great for all the little kiddiewinks who adore him, especially his best friend’s little girl Klara.

Klara is an adorable blonde bundle of imagination who likes nothing more than wandering off on the adventures of her own mind.

Luckily for her, Lucas is usually around when her parents aren’t to lead her home when she strays off her intended path.

Such is small town life.

But when her innocent crush on Lucas turns into a refused kiss, Klara says something that sends ripples of destruction through this small minded community as well as Lucas’ life.

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring the marvellous Mads Mikkelsen, The Hunt is supposed to be an emotive exploration of some of the worst aspects of human nature.

Isolation, cruelty and a lynch mob mentality are all themes that touch Lucas’ life as soon as the allegations of child abuse become public.

Yet, as well made and tautly acted as The Hunt is, I didn’t really care about many of the trials Lucas has to go through because his accusations are ridiculously taken as fact without any proof or simply asking the accused whether they were guilty.

This is amply highlighted when a concerned headmistress of the local school, having heard the less than innocent words fall from the innocent mind of her student Klara, brings someone in to question said girl.

This man isn’t a police officer, doctor or psychologist of any kind, and if he is then it sure as hell ain’t mentioned in the subtitles; he’s just some random yahoo some incompetent and out of her depth woman has brought in to ask questions she couldn’t bring to ask herself.

What follows is an insulting q and a session where the naive Klara says nothing other than yes or no to a series of leading questions, and only when pressured to do so by some unqualified local redneck who never shows up in The Hunt before or after this scene.

If anyone’s guilty of abuse, it would be this perverted fellow and the things he brings up unprompted with this little girl.

But the script says Lucas must be hunted as a paedophile, so that’s what’s going to happen; regardless of how badly this premise is set up.

The thing is films only ever pull you into the world they’ve created if you believe in the characters and situations they’re going through.

That’s what we love about them, and by we I mean me, and this goes double for smaller scale films where it’s all about the story that’s been crafted, rather than the famous faces on display or incredible special effects you can goggle at.

So even though Mikkelsen is his usual brilliant self as Lucas in The Hunt, as are the rest of the cast and beautiful cinematography, it’s wasted for me because the set-up is so unbelievable.

As for who I’d choose to hunt down, well as I write these words with frozen fingertips because the heating to my apartment block’s been turned off in the coldest week of the year, I’m going to have to plump my new and unrepentant landlord to be first against the wall.

Jonathan Campbell

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November 2012
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