The FILM IN WORDS Netflix Film of the Week: helping you navigate the filmic minefield of the nation’s favourite video streaming service.
Following a messy divorce from his ex-wife, and struggling to maintain a relationship with his teenage son, kindergarten assistant Lucas finds solstice in alcohol fuelled nights out with his hunting buddies and the amorous advances of attractive nursery colleague Nadja. After carelessly being exposed to pornographic images by her brother, and developing a juvenile crush on Lucas, Klara, the young daughter of Lucas’ best friend, falsely accuses him of indecently exposing himself to her. Within seemingly hours Lucas’ public reputation and the friendships he has maintained since childhood are devastated; he is ostracised from the close-knit Danish community he was once a central part of and thrust into the midst of a poisonous and violent witch-hunt.
Often films dealing with the highly emotive and controversial subject matter of sexual predators, their crimes, and victims (especially when those victims are children), exhibit a degree of narrative ambiguity – forcing their audience to establish an opinion of whether the accused is truly guilty through the examination of characters and evidence. The most interesting and creative element of The Hunt is its omniscient direction – immediately alerting viewers to Lucas’ innocence. The film could easily have become a dark crime-thriller, comfortably identifying the violence, and overarching mood present throughout as Nordic noir genre conventions – in the same manner as The Killing, The Bridge, and various other excellent film and television examples of the genre. Instead you are presented with the increasingly infuriating and barbaric actions of an insular society whose thirst for gossip and fear of the unknown encourages a confused child to implicate a morally just man. The picture’s decision to depict such ordinary, run-of-the-mill characters and their shortcomings – as opposed to twisted serial killers or corrupt figures of influence – is what creates such a distinctly threatening and unnerving edge to the films reality-driven social commentary.
Mads Mikkelsen’s lead performance earned him a best actor award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, and deservedly so. From the moment Lucas is accused you will desperately root for his vindication. The sympathy and frustration experienced as the narrative progresses and the town’s actions become more reprehensible, is at times, overwhelming. Director Thomas Vinteberg, best known for his role in establishing the naturalistic avant-garde filmmaking movement ‘Dogme 95’, alongside the then L’enfant terrible, Lars Von Trier, may well have taken a much more creatively rigid direction than his former collaborator, but that doesn’t mean his filmmaking is any less engaging. You experience every crushing betrayal Lucas faces alongside him, and celebrate every minor victory. As with recent dramas such as Jane Campion’s aesthetically stunning television production, Top of the Lake, the idyllic surroundings in which the narrative takes place provide the perfect antithesis to the brutal actions of the individuals which inhabit them. Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s cinematography slowly turns a picturesque autumnal wonderland into a harsh secluded landscape upon which Lucas is completely exposed to the malicious whims of the ‘community’ who become the true predators.
The Hunt is one of the most emotionally engaging and powerful dramas of recent years, packed full of brilliant and believable performances. The ride may well be hard to bear at times, but Lucas’ journey through his own personal hell is an incredibly potent and accomplished piece of filmmaking that deserves your attention.