“The Hunt”, or “Mads Mikkelsen is a Perfect Human Being” by Caitlin McGrane

Posted on May 24, 2013

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First off, I’d like to start with an apology to readers of this column for its slightly morbid fascination with all things fucked up. A few weeks ago we had Mea Maxima Culpa, last week was The Evil Dead and this week I saw The Hunt. Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, A Royal Affair) stars as Lucas a beloved kindergarten teacher who is accused of, arguably the most taboo crime imaginable, abusing one of his pupils. Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) is about four and does not fully understand what she has said, and sets in motion a chain of events that brings Lucas’ life crashing down around him.

So much about this film struck me. Initially it was the way the allegation is handled. It’s very raw. People speak clumsily, and the accusation was immediately assumed to be true because “children don’t tell lies like that.” The way the accusation spreads through the tightly knit community is frankly quite frightening. This is especially uncomfortable when Lucas confronts the headmistress of the kindergarten about why he hasn’t been told anything about either the investigation or the allegation.

Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt

Mads Mikkelsen in The Hunt

There is an almost Hitchcockian tension that runs throughout the film. The last ten minutes were almost unbearable. There are a number of motifs that are intricately woven into the film: guns, hunting, men becoming boys and boys becoming men. These culminate in a scene that I had to watch from behind my scarf because the tension was so hideous. The purpose, I believe, is to make you think about how each and every action can take its toll.

If you’ve seen A Royal Affair then you’ll know how great Mads Mikkelsen is and for his performance in The Hunt he won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival last year. The rest of the cast is also absolutely amazing, especially the young girl who plays Klara. With a budget of 20 million kroner, the film looks incredible and I’m not surprised it was among the selection for the Toronto International Film Festival.

Mads Mikkelsen

It goes without saying that the subject matter of the film is incredibly difficult, but it becomes clear that this is not a film about child abuse. It is a film about how an accumulation of unsubstantiated allegations can destroy lives. It shows how asking leading questions and not listening properly when people (even children) tell you things is damaging. It is about how we only hear what we want to hear when we have decided the truth on a matter. Beautifully, poignantly and eloquently The Hunt mirrors one of humanity’s greatest foibles – blissful ignorance. Instead of stopping to ask their own questions and find out the truth, the town are more than willing to accept the truth fed to them through gossip.

In a roundabout way, I suppose, it shows how much we should value freedom of speech. The film shows nothing in the way of news coverage of the story, which is further proof that the film demonstrates that knowledge is power and asking questions is never wrong.

Caitlin McGrane is You’re Dripping Egg’s resident film reviewer. Her column, Here. Hare. Here. is released every Friday.

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