Movie #122 2021: The Hunt (2012)

Whatever you do, don’t confuse this movie with the Craig Zobel movie The Hunt from 2020, because it could not be more different. This is not an American dystopian action comedy at all, but rather a Danish language drama starring the brilliant Mads Mikkelsen in the leading role.

Directed by Danish film director Thomas Vinterberg who was recently nominated for Best Director for his latest movie, Another Round, (which also stars Mikkelsen and won the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film this year, just so you know) The Hunt follows a school teacher in a small Danish village around Christmastime. Mikkelsen plays said school teacher, who seems to have it all: a steady job that he loves, a new girlfriend, and a lovely house to boot. Things suddenly turn south however when he becomes the target of mass hysteria after he is wrongly accused of sexually abusing a young girl in his kindergarten class.

Well, fuck. I don’t even know how to begin, but I know I wasn’t expecting to be so impressed by this. It’s actually kind of difficult to review, because the film technically reinforces the idea that people lie about being sexually assaulted, and we all know that’s extremely rare. However, The Hunt handles the subject surprisingly well, and makes the root cause of the accusations ‘a misunderstanding’, with the child never being blamed or mistreated for what she did or did not accuse her teacher of.

I knew The Hunt had pretty great ratings and reviews but… holy crap. What a gripping, subtle, complex yet calm piece of storytelling. I had no idea where it was going from one moment to the next and it was simply a pleasure to watch, even if it left me with a slightly icky feeling afterwards. Frankly, I couldn’t take my eyes of it, which is best compliment I can give a movie to be honest. 

The Hunt’s screenplay is such a pure, tightly knit piece of scriptwriting. Perfectly paced and extremely profound, Thomas Vinterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm successfully craft a gritty moral drama that takes such careful steps so as not to present the child as the villain. Alongside that, the drama within it is so anxiety-inducing and frustrating in the best way possible and it’s so aggravating to see the hysteria and lies unfold. A truly thought-provoking piece of cinema in more ways than one.

Mads Mikkelsen is the glue that holds this whole film together. There definitely needed to be a certain maturity and nuance, but did he need to be this good? Probably not. His performance absolutely deserves the praise it received. I certainly feel compelled to see more of his work now, with Another Round definitely being high on my list of ‘must watches’.

There’s nothing flashy or visually explosive about this movie; it’s all about the storytelling and it’s done so expertly that it needs nothing else. Vinterberg really cemented himself as one of the most interesting living directors with this one – even if you don’t know what to think of the film’s message afterwards, his fingerprints as a filmmaking genius are interwoven consistently throughout the very fabric of this movie.

So, about that ‘icky feeling’. The only thing I couldn’t get completely on board with was the need to make a movie about false accusations. Though it makes for a riveting story and things such as this do (rarely) happen from time to time, it feels as though this story could be potentially harmful to real life victims of abuse who have been vilified for coming forward. Again, the accuser is never portrayed as a villain here, which makes it less distasteful in the times of the #MeToo movement, especially as the villagers around her believe every word she says without question. However, it’s a little bit unsettling to know that some people may watch it and apply the ‘men are always falsely accused’ hypothesis to every case in real life. Thankfully, most of the people who choose to watch an international foreign language film of their own free will – I would like to think – are smarter than that.

Overall, it’s some well-made and brilliant filmmaking, despite the aforementioned feeling it left me with afterwards. Nevertheless, truly worth the watch and it only made me more excited to see more from this director.

The Hunt is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

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