Thomas Vinterberg returns to the difficult subject of abuse with The Hunt, co-written with Tobias Lindholm it’s a simple story told very well. Vinterberg screened his film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival where leading man Mads Mikkelsen scooped a best actor award, it’s now been handed a wider cinematic release which, given the recent high-profile false accusations of abuse, couldn’t be more timely.
Set in small Danish town, The Hunt is a muted, infuriating and utterly engrossing story of lies, paranoia and untamed mass hysteria.
Mikkelsen is outstanding as Lucas, the modest kindergarten teacher who’s dragged through the emotional and physical ringer after being accused of exposing himself to one of the girls in his class. Lucas of course, did no such thing but the rumour spreads, slowly at first, throughout the town slowly turning colleagues and friends against him. The lie then begins to grow and to evolve, soon Lucas is being accused of more and worse, and little by little he is morphed into an outcast, a hated and hunted pariah.
The key to The Hunt is its lack of ambiguity, the message is clear: Lucas is a wronged man, and wronged in the most heinous way possible. It’s because we feel so sure of his innocence, and because Mikkelsen is so good at portraying a tender man persecuted, we find ourselves hoping and rooting so strenuously for him as the shit inexorably hits the fan.
Vinterberg’s thriller is taut, lean and visually arresting, while Lucas’s descent into emotional hell is heart-breaking and utterly gripping. Vinterberg’s ability to draw the maximum tension from sparse set-pieces and stand-offs is truly astounding. Two moments late in the piece in which Lucas is confronted by the townsfolk in a supermarket, and attends a Christmas Eve church service are both gripping and horribly uncomfortable.