The Hunt

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Alexandra Rapaport, Annika Wedderkopp, and Lasse Fogelstrom

Within the last week, Hollywood has been rocked as the molestation allegations against Woody Allen resurfaced.  Allen’s stepdaughter Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter chastising Hollywood for honoring the man who allegedly molested her as a child.  Battles have been waged on daytime talk shows disputing the issue, and articles have been published with damaging details from the court’s 1993 custody ruling on Allen’s “inappropriate” behavior with Dylan Farrow.  As a mother of a four year old daughter, I can only imagine the pain that the family is going through.  The Oscar-nominated film, The Hunt, actually deals with the story of a man accused of child molestation.

In The Hunt, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a single divorced dad living alone in a small, close knit Danish community.  He is lonely, but he has a great group of friends, and a good relationship with his son.  Lucas works at the local kindergarten and relishes his playtime with the kids.  His best friend Theo’s (Thomas Bo Larsen) daughter Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) attends the kindergarten school where Lucas works, and she and Lucas often walk to and from school together.

As Lucas starts to rebound from his separation, he begins to date one of his co-workers Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport).  Much to his delight, his son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom) is moving to live with him full time.  But unbeknownst to Lucas, little Klara has developed a crush on him.  She writes him a love note and kisses him on the lips.  When Lucas gently tells Klara that she needs to play with kids her own age, Klara becomes upset.  She tells her teacher that Lucas abused her.  After the teacher informs the authorities, Lucas systematically loses everything he values and becomes a pariah within the tight knit community.

The Hunt is a thought-provoking drama that skillfully poses some very serious questions about society and morality.  On the one hand, we empathize with Lucas.  He is a man wrongfully accused of a crime.  His livelihood, his son, his reputation, and even his ability to go to the grocery store, are stripped away from him based on false allegations.  His life is literally destroyed because of a lie.  But, on the other hand, if we lived in a community and the same allegations and “facts” surfaced, would we have acted any differently than the townspeople?  In most societies, those accused of crimes are socially guilty until proven innocent.  It is not right, but it is how we operate.  And if I lived in a community where a kindergarten teacher was accused of abusing multiple innocent children, I cannot say that I would have reacted much differently than some of the townspeople in The Hunt who shunned Lucas.   We judge people all of the time when we watch the news or participate in social media. The director adeptly holds a mirror up to the scarlet letters that we are quick to slap on others in modern times.

Even though the story is compelling, it would not work without the stellar performances of the cast.  Mikkelson (Casino Royale, King Arthur, The Three Musketeers) gives a fantastic performance in the lead role.  He transitions from shy and awkward to broken and ultimately courageous.  In the end, he drives the entire film.  In addition, the young actress who plays Klara gives a performance beyond her years.

The Hunt is not without its issues.  Namely, I found the pacing of the film to be a little too slow at times, and thus certain parts of the movie drag.  In addition, I think the women in the film are portrayed too superficially.  The male characters are layered and complex.  However, Lucas’s ex-wife and Theo’s wife are depicted as shrews, the school head mistress is somewhat incompetent, and Lucas’s girlfriend is portrayed as a fair weather friend.

Overall, however, the performances, the story and the subject matter make The Hunt an incredibly powerful film.  The Hunt earns a strong 0.03% rating.