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Friday, 19 July 2013 00:00

'The Hunt' tracks a Danish village's witchhunt

'The Hunt' tracks a Danish village's witchhunt youtube.com
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

  • Director: Thomas Vinterberg
  • Dates: Opens July 19, 2013

What does a respected member of a tight-knit community do when he finds himself erroneously charged with inappropriate sexual behavior with his best friend's five-year-old daughter Klara? For 40-year-old Danish kindergarten worker Lucas, the answer is a devastatingly intense emotional reaction when his colleagues and neighbors doubt him in "The Hunt," an emotionally confrontational and psychologically astute film.

Issues dramatized are a heady mix: a child's memory and story telling, community pressure, procedures for interrogating children, finding the courage within yourself to stand up for yourself, and the difficulty of accepting ambiguity when an individual can not prove his innocence. Ironically and complicating the intricate fusion of kindness and cruelty on display, we the audience know immediately that Lucas is innocent, and then must watch his distraught reaction to the appalling behavior of his friends. And yet their suspicions are understandable, especially given recent revelations about pedophilia by so many trusted caretakers.

The trouble stems from Klara's affection for Lucas, recently divorced, fighting to see his teenage son more often, and working temporarily as a kindergarten aid because his middle school was closed. Bickering between Klara's parents leaves her neglected. Lucas helps her, which in turn leads Klara to focus her affection on Lucas. His correction to her hurts Klara who, in an exchange with the school principal, thoughtlessly accuses Lucas of misconduct. Interrogators--the principal, parents, and friends--make a myriad of mistakes from beginning to end in pursuing the facts. To begin with, after the first interrogation of Klara, her (and anyone else's) accurate memory has been altered.

Mads Mikkelsen won the prestigious best actor award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival for his heartrending portrayal of Lucas. Every supporting player offers his and her expertise as well. Technically, Danish director/screenwriter Thomas Vinterberg keeps the camera close to capture nuances well, but a couple scenes, especially two in the local grocery, feel heavy handed. Nevertheless, "The Hunt" questions how we know what we believe, why we're prone to accept gossip, and never lets us or the townspeople off the hook. The ending left me breathless. In Danish with English subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.

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