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Flicks - The Hunt
The Hunt 13/08/16 2:55
Flicks - The Hunt
An innocent man is accused of child sexual abuse in Thomas Vinterberg's harrowing portrait of group fear and ostracism. The Hunt, a new film from Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, is about the fear and hatred resulting from accusations of child sexual abuse. That such abuse does happen, and frequently, the film does not dispute, and in fact makes it clear that in many cases such accusations are true. But this particular story is about an innocent man, a kindergarten teacher named Lucas (played by Mads Mikkelsen), who ends up in trouble, not because of malice on anyone's part, but because of a series of circumstances that prompt a gradual build-up of suspicion that eventually leads to panic and rage.
Five-year-old Klara, daughter of Lucas's best friend Theo, catches a glimpse of pornography on the iPad of one of her older brother's friends, and hears some inappropriate words. The kind and attentive Lucas, who helps her out by walking her to school while her parents are quarreling, inspires an innocent crush in the little girl, but a minor episode results in her feelings being hurt, and she repeats the words she heard earlier at home to the school principal, but this time in reference to Lucas. The concerned principal brings in someone to interrogate the girl, and after she nods her head to some leading questions, the matter is turned over to the police.
Lucas's luck had seemed to be shifting. He had a new girlfriend, and his ex-wife had agreed to let their teenage son live with him, but now most of the townspeople turn against him. Even though Klara now says nothing happened, the adults won't let it drop, and adult suggestions lead to testimony by other children. Lucas, played by Mikkelsen as a man whose shyness appears as a kind of cold stoicism, becomes a hated pariah, shunned from the places he used to go, subject to both verbal abuse and physical violence. Vinterberg wants to depict the way decent people can become vicious themselves when they project their feelings onto someone perceived as a monster. More subtly, he shows that the tendency to reflexively believe the statement of very young children constitutes a denial of the adults' own power to influence the way kids feel and behave.
In addition to the always compelling Mikkelsen, the film features a stand-out performance by Thomas Bo Larsen as Klara's father and Lucas's best friend Theo, who struggles between his protective anger and a slowly growing intuition of the truth.
The film's title has a double meaning, as Lucas is part of a culture of deer hunting that is very important in his community, where a boy finally getting a hunting license is a celebrated rite of passage. Of course, the hunter becomes the hunted, as Lucas is pursued by unfounded accusations until he can't take it any longer and must fight back. All this is portrayed in a measured, non-sensational style by Vinterberg, who seeks to show this process not as some freakish phenomenon, but as an ordinary aspect of the human predicament. It is this plain, everyday aspect that lends The Hunt its power to disturb.