The Hunt, Review

This poignant drama about community and the bonds that tie will also be the most horrifying movie you can see this year.

The poet John Donne once famously said that no man is an island. That may be true, however it is stunning how quickly his friends and community can maroon him to rot on one. The Hunt earns its title by depicting the most chillingly horrifying story I have seen at a theater this year. A modern day witch hunt of the most believable covent, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) thinks himself to be a hunter until he realizes he is the prey of gossip, hysteria and communal outrage. The Danish tragedy is the story of a small, tightly knitted community of Danes who value tradition. As a long-standing member of the Hunter’s Club and a beloved kindergarten teacher, Lucas is respected and admired by the town, including by his childhood best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen). Still, there is a melancholy to his life that has set in since his wife left him and moved to another town with their teenage son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom). Yet, the lonely divorcée has his health, his dog and the interest of the new English-speaking teacher Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport). Things are looking up until little Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), angry that Lucas neglects her attentions, tells an innocent white lie to another teacher…that Lucas showed her his willie. Also, Klara happens to be Theo’s daughter.
 Within the span of a month, Lucas’ life is left in ashes and no matter how hard he fights to preserve his dignity, innocence and family, the foundations upon which they are built are forever salted. The Hunt is a harrowing picture that strikes at the core of the viewer and leaves the feeling of an icy desolation, not dissimilar to the December landscapes of the film. Set around the advent of Christmas, human nature satirist Thomas Vinterberg crafts a film about the darkest traits among those supposedly celebrating goodwill toward man and fellow kinship. When Grethe (Susse Wold) first hears Klara’s lie, her immediate instinct is to promise fellow educator Lucas that she is on his side and will get to the bottom of this, but woe unto those who put their trust into plastered smiles. Grethe does not so much attempt to discover if the accusations are true, but ensures Klara confirms details by asking questions of the most lurid and intimate nature without police aide and goes on to tell all of the parents of Lucas’ assumed guilt before even alerting authorities. She even obligingly contacts his ex-wife with the good news right around the time Lucas’ son is supposed to spend Christmas with his father.
 However, as quickly as those around Lucas’ circle of friends shrink, the real horror is in Mikkelsen’s eyes. American audiences likely know the actor best as being the Bond baddie in Casino Royale and his recent TV stardom on NBC’s Hannibal. This is a shame, because his European work continues to display a haunting soulfulness and restrained forlorn resignation that eclipses the genre fare on this side of the pond. Mikkelsen’s quiet desperation for any shred of remaining regard goes beyond empathetic; it is a raw immersion into frenzy. The “wrong man” storyline is universal for all have that secret fear, but it takes on a new meaning when those throwing stones feel just as betrayed. Most notably is Bo Larsen who takes what could have been a caricature of grief and creates with Mikkelsen the visceral death of a friendship. Lucas loses much over the course of the story: The visitation of his son (though Marcus remains one of the few to believe his innocence), his respected career, the trust of his lover and, ultimately, even the ability to walk into a grocery store without being beaten and harassed by neighbors. Yet, even when the judging anger is directed at his dog, he finds the smallest victories wherever available. But there is none to be had with the connection severed between him and Theo. Their quiet scenes show the doubt and confusion creeping around Theo’s eyes,. Even when the ridiculous charges are exposed as farcical to some, there is nothing to mend that fence. Just anger and regret on both sides.
 Ultimately, it does not matter how far Lucas goes to prove his innocence, because the hunt is already on. Even if he shakes the trail of the dogs, the fox will always have a target on his back and the town he grew up in and that his forefathers helped build will never see him as more than a prey that must be pursued. It is a disturbing realization that leaks into a coda that had all but promised a tidy resolution. But like life, there is little so clean about this story, because the man is already trapped on that island with his connections lost like tears in the wind. There may be some friends who stand by him or a son that will always know that he is true, but even the deer likely has a family when the hunting knives come out.  Den of Geek Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Rating:

5 out of 5