Friday, July 26, 2013
A child's remark brings lives to the brink of ruin in Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg's complex drama The Hunt. The story takes shape in the treacherous and fascinating twilight zone between acute moral responsibility and witch-hunting. Not a lot happens in the narrative except ordinary people going about their daily routines—talking, laughing, drinking, making love, going to work—but because the focus is on the ever-unpredictable vagaries of human nature, the film plays like a compelling, edge-of-your-seat thriller.
Although Vinterberg (Celebration) is a founding member of the ill-advised Dogma school of Danish filmmaking, The Hunt is mercifully unburdened by shaky hand-held camera work or attempted real-time narrative constraints. It flows over time and place at its own pace, like a normal movie, and is so much stronger because of it.
It takes place in a small, contemporary Danish suburb on the edge of a forest, where the men of the town initiate their sons into manhood during the annual deer hunt, as their families have done for generations.
The great Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen gives a performance of astonishing force and subtlety as protagonist Lucas. Completely integrated into the life of the town, yet somewhat apart, Lucas is divorced and lives alone; his adored teenage son lives elsewhere, with Lucas' prickly ex-wife. (In a wry running gag, Lucas' loyal dog barks like crazy if anyone mentions the name of his ex.)
One day, a child says something vague to the principal of the kindergarten where Lucas works, that makes her think something inappropriate has happened. Vinterberg shows with scalpel-like precision how fear and misinformation spread like a contagion throughout the town, infecting everyone. (Read more)