Besides chips that break in half in your salsa and people who use the word “irregardless,” the most frustrating thing in the world is being the only person who knows the suspect is innocent.
Thankfully, the fact that the 2012 Danish drama “The Hunt” made me want to pull my hair out doesn’t make it any worse of a movie.
“The Hunt” is the story of Lucas (Mads Mikkelson), a kindergarten teacher who lives in a close-knit village in rural Denmark. Despite an ongoing custody battle with his ex-wife, Lucas leads a happy life full of caring friends.
That is, until a student, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), makes some remarks that lead another teacher to believe Lucas has sexualy abused Klara.
Here’s where the frustration comes in.
You see, I know that Klara’s just repeating things she heard from her older brother, but nobody else does. Not even Lucas, who’s kept completely in the dark while the community organizes a witch hunt.
A couple months later, more stories from students have surfaced, and Lucas is the object of a police investigation. The community has completely shunned him, resorting to open violence against both him and his son Marcus, who is now living with him.
The problem with films whose plot is largely fueled by a series of misunderstandings is that those misunderstandings will invariably reach a point where the audience is driven to shout “Oh, come on!,” their suspended disbelief suddenly shattered by the sheer improbability of it all.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of “The Hunt” is that the film is just so damned plausible. I can see where the townspeople are coming from. Sure, they’re overzealous in their pursuit of justice, but how could they know that Lucas isn’t a pedophile unless they have the information that the viewer does?
“The Hunt” is essentially about sexism, or rather, the habit that we as a society have of building a mental picture of a certain type of person—A picture that makes us jump to conclusions and reverse that critical mantra: “innocent before proven guilty.”
Of course, it does help that Lucas is, to put it bluntly, a creepy looking dude.
Mikkelson carries the film in more ways than just his appearance. As plausible as the situation is, it wouldn’t make sense to have an outgoing person be the object of the community’s wrath.
Ironically, Lucas has all the qualities perfect for a teacher. He’s kind loyal, kind and patient. He’s the kind of person who lets his students come over to walk his dog whenever they want.
Yet it’s these qualities that make Lucas such an easy target, something that speaks to the film’s central theme of preconceptions.
Many parents, especially in this day and age, are prone to thinking the worst when it comes to their children. Lucas is kind in school only because he wants to lure the children in. The dog walking is all a clever ruse to get the children inside the house.
The best part of “The Hunt” is watching Lucas react to what’s going on around him.
You can see it in his face, the abject confusion at the events whirling around him and the fact that everybody he knows and loves is slipping away from him like so many grains of sand.
But to praise only Mikkelsen would be a crime.
Annika Wedderkopp is good (or at least as good as anyone could expect a kindergartener to be) in her first role.
Thomas Bo Larsen is also a pleasant surprise as Theo, Klara’s father and Lucas’s closest friend. He doesn’t get a lot of screentime, but he manages to show us a confused man trapped between what he feels is right and what everyone else tells him is.
Despite all of “The Hunt’s” important lessons I will say that one is more important than all others: no amount of screaming “She’s lying!” at a child on-screen will ever make a movie turn out differently.