I feel ashamed to admit that I did not see a single film nominated for Best Foreign Film at this years Academy Awards. Some of these films are now making their way to streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu Plus, so I am now seeing them. Better late than never.
The Hunt is an extraordinary film. It was Denmark’s submission for Best Foreign Film, and it rightfully was submitted. No, it did not win; it lost to The Great Beauty from Italy, but it is still a phenomenal film.
The movie follows Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal Lector on the new NBC show) as Lucas, a kindergarten teacher (who we would all want as kids.) He loves his jobs, but he is struggling with the custody over his son, who he hardly gets to see; he has a beautiful girlfriend and has great friends. Things however take a turn for, well, the terrible. His life is completely shattered by the wrongful accusation that he is a child molester, after a little lie and a bad procedure of events. His life turns to ruin, people abandon him except for a handful, and he is labeled a pedophile who cannot go to work or even the grocery store without getting denied service and verbally and physically assaulted. Mikkelsen is brilliant. He ranges from a happy and playful teacher to a lonely and outcast man who loses literally everything. We truly fear for him because of his wrongful accusation and we do not know what will happen.
The audience knows he did not molest the child, but it is merely a child’s ignorance of things bigger than them that gets him in trouble. We just want to yell at the people to listen to Lucas, to look him in the eyes, but nobody ever gives him a chance to explain himself. He is cast off like a pest the instant word hits the streets. Just like in Atonement things can be changed so easily, but once the word is out people cannot look at Lucas the same way again and is thus too late. Annika Wedderkopp, who plays Karla, the girl who lies about Lucas, is exceptional in what is her first movie. She can’t be older than 4 or 5, but she is one of the scene-stealers.
The director, Thomas Vinterberg, handles the subject matter with a deft hand. Making a serious subject something accessible while also showing the effects it has on the people involved. His direction makes the movie an absolutely compelling watch, keeping you on the edge of your seat up until the very end.
The film is beautifully shot; highlighting the beauties of Denmark and the darkly lit interiors of not only the houses, but of the mind that Lucas descends into. The supporting cast is great too, watching how everyone absolutely adores Lucas just to have them flip on a dime and start loathing the very idea of him is a painful experience. It is all full of heartbreaking performances from a stellar cast.
The movie does raise the question about pedophilia though. I am not saying that I am believing that all children lie, but this movie brings for the idea that some might indeed not tell the truth, and people are so quick to believe their kids that they are ignorant of what actually could have happened. Despite multiple people speaking of Karla’s vivid imagination, they still believe her lie. The movie also shows that some of the questions can be very leading into having a child answer something that they may not understand, thus leading to an even worse situation.
The Hunt goes to show that some people may be unjustly accused and judged for crimes they didn’t do. It is full of great performances and beautiful cinematography, but most importantly it raises questions about a subject that is so easily seen in black and white, it reveals that there is some gray area, that people should not be so quick to judge, and that there is always room for error.