Directed by Thomas Vinterberg - Written by Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg - Produced by a deluge of Danish folks - Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrøm, Susse Wold, Alexandra Rapaport
Though I usually try to avoid making fleeting judgments of an entire country's film industry, Thomas Vinterberg's latest endeavor, The Hunt (Jagten), reminds me of why I continue to think that Denmark has a complete embargo on lighthearted films, a policy that the country obviously borrowed from Sweden after their success with it.
Obligatory Scandinavian humor aside, though, Vinterburg's truly brilliant film deserves some serious consideration. In fact, it's one of the best I've seen this year. The film explores how a single, random lie can destroy the entire life of an innocent man: Lukas (Mads Mikkelsen) works as a kindergarten aide in a small, tight-nit Danish community and by all accounts his life hasn't been going well. He's recently experienced a messy divorce and is fighting both to maintain a stable relationship with his son and to make financial ends meet. Wholesome interaction with the nursery children and the possibility of a new relationship seem to show a silver lining to his misfortunes but, when his best friend's daughter Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) falsely accuses him of sexual abuse, Lukas's life is quickly turned upside down. Suspicions build, friends become enemies, and the town he was once respected in becomes a vicious den of his accusers and the perfect setting for a modern day witch-hunt. A strong script anchors this film and Hannibal/Casino Royale's Mads Mikkelsen delivers a haunting, nuanced performance that has catapulted him to my short-list of favorite actors working today. The rest of the cast, especially Thomas Bo Larsen, also delivers strong performances all around to construct an utterly convincing reality, one which grips you for the duration and leaves you shaken long after the credits roll. A harrowing sequence towards the end of the film in which a physically and emotionally defeated Lukas stumbles into Christmas Mass will affect you emotionally by virtue of these great performances alone. Easily the most powerful in the film, the scene is accomplished almost entirely without dialogue, demonstrating the remarkable restraint and reserve that Vinterberg applies to the entirety of The Hunt... and exactly what makes it such a successful work. Angst-ridden, disturbing, thought-provoking, and emotional without ever being melodramatic, The Hunt is a film I can't recommend highly enough. It's a wonder the Academy overlooked it.
See it: If you appreciate foreign cinema at all or if you are willing to go out of your way for great acting because, though it will be hard to find in limited release, The Hunt features a brilliant performance for which Mads Mikkelsen was robbed of an Oscar nomination.
Pass: If you are expressly against being distressed by a film, for The Hunt deals frankly with pedophilia, sexual assault, and their effects on a small-town community.
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