Review: The Hunt (Jagten)

Magnolia Pictures: Mads Mikkelsen in "The Hunt"Whether it’s legitimate or whether it’s a complete work of fiction, the image that a person carries with him through life can either help him discover an existence filled with success or ruin him in every way imaginable. That’s why image is everything to some and the people who may not have the greatest of character may want to hide themselves under a cloak of nothing but false pretenses and facades. The Hunt is a film that takes a look at the delicate nature of image when it takes a look at how easily it can be altered and drastically impacted with only a few damaging words.

The Hunt follows Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a school teacher with a friendly demeanor and an impeccable reputation to go along with it. He’s the type of guy that everyone loves to be around and it’s easy to see why he’s so good at his job. Teaching a bunch of kids is no easy task for a lot of folks, but for him, there’s a ton of pride and joy in it. He’s very lucky in that sense, because aside from Fanny, his dog, that’s one of the very few things that he has going for him at the moment.

As of right now, Lucas is living his life as a bachelor in a large house after a break-up from his longtime spouse leaves him all by his lonesome. He’s doing his best to move on while also trying to keep things amicable with his ex-partner. They have a son together named Marcus, so keeping things peaceful is only reasonable for all of them. With the stress of dealing with all of this as peacefully as possible, it’s easy to see why the guy should embrace his job even more than he did before. It’s here, where he gets to take his mind off of things and bask in his positive nature.

He gets along with every one of the faculty members and all of his students love him and enjoy their time being in his class, but there is one person who he gives more attention to than others. Her name is Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), and not only is she a student in his class, she also happens to be the young daughter of his best friend. He’s developed a bond with the young girl and is there for her whenever she may need him. Whether she gets lost or if her parents just happen to be entrenched in one of their shouting matches, he’s almost always there for her.

The relationship between the two seems normal to everyone, but it certainly takes a turn for the worse, when Klara brings some accusations to light. Out of the blue, the young girl claims that she’s been receiving the wrong kind of attention from Lucas, the delightful school teacher that everyone seems to love. It catches everyone off guard and threatens to drive a wedge between him and the community that thought they knew him so well. It hurts him from that perspective, but it also does some damage to him internally.

The truth is, this is a legal issue that proves to be a battle of morality that he can’t seem to win regardless of the events that have actually taken place. While being emotionally devastated by the accusations, he still attempts to handle this as peacefully as possible, but that’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen, because many of the people in this small community won’t let go that easily regardless of whatever evidence they have or don’t have. It’s the sort of problem that can chase someone for life.

With his neighbors, friends and co-workers alike making up their minds as they see fit, Lucas finds himself in a bubble that looks to be getting smaller and smaller as time goes by. He’s finding out firsthand what it means to be an outcast and how lonely the world can be when a person becomes a villain to nearly all that surround him. Will Lucas find justice for himself, find vindication and restore his good name? Or will he fall deeper and deeper into a dark world filled with nothing but boundless levels of  despair, hopelessness and unrelenting confinement?

The Hunt is a drama that relies on its emotionally heavy story that contains content that’s basically only meant for adults. Dealing with something like child molestation and allegations of child molestation is a bold move in film and it’s something that only the most professional filmmakers should be handling. I’ve never seen any of the work from director/co-writer Thomas Vinterberg before this film, but if this is what he has to offer, then he is one of the few that have the right to focus on these kinds of topics.

Vinterberg is fantastic at telling a story with such serious subject matter as he smoothly and sharply gets his point across. There’s a distinct aura of reality that affects this film and allows it to be straight forward and inexplicably enigmatic at the same time. The Hunt never comes off as over the top or underplayed because of this, and it makes for an emotional ride for the characters and to an extent, the film’s observers as well.

To make the story even stronger, there are plenty of strong acting performances featured in The Hunt. From that perspective, Mads Mikkelsen leads the way with a powerful performance that properly illustrates how someone’s life can be turned upside down by allegations that would be devastatingly harmful to anyone’s reputation. As a viewer of The Hunt, getting a feel of how all this might be for a person is effortless due to the skills that Mikkelsen uses to portray Lucas, his out of luck character that he plays.

As a matter of fact, I can say that for the entire movie in and of itself. One of the aspects of the film that I took note of is something that I continue to appreciate more and more as I watch films that are made and developed outside of the United States. Like a number of other foreign films, The Hunt rarely ever uses a musical soundtrack to help set the tone in any way, shape or form. Throughout its entirety, this Danish flick fully and successfully commits to the actual story as essentially the one and only emotional factor to be included outside of the actors.

To watch a movie with almost no scenes or sequences that are too outrageous or standout and have it still be wonderful, thrilling and watchable is quite an accomplishment. When you add to the fact that there’s really no music or anything else to drive those factors home, it’s even more impressive and truly speaks to the essence of the human spirit in both good and bad ways. The Hunt does provide all of these features in a properly exquisite manner and it’s one of the best films of 2013 that I’ve seen.

Score: 4/5

Rating: R

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Cast:
Mads Mikkelsen
Thomas Bo Larsen
Annika Wedderkopp
Alexandra Rapaport
Susse Wold
Lars Ranthe

Film Length: 111 minutes

Release Dates:
January 10, 2013 (Denmark)
June 12, 2013 (U.S.)

Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Country: Denmark