The latest effort from Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, The Hunt is a brilliantly restrained film about a man falsely accused of sexually assaulting a young girl while working as a kindergarten aide. Relying on a series of utterly convincing performances led by the severely underrated Mads Mikkelsen (in what may be the best performance of his career), The Hunt has a palpable tension to it that needs little musical reinforcement. Providing that miniscule push, however, is two-time "Danish Oscar" winning composer Nikolaj Egelund, who also scored the similarly themed Accused (Anklaget).
If I have given you the impression that The Hunt is a score-less film, that’s not quite the case. It opens with Van Morrison’s "Moondance" and features a number of source Christmas Carols as well as, of course, Egelund’s score. Taking cues from those near-scoreless experiments, though, Vinterberg employs Egelund’s composing abilities only for key moments and mostly silent sequences, avoiding relying on music as a stand-in for a well-acted scene. The gentle piece "Clara Makes Heart", for instance, features a light celesta melody that connotes the innocence of young Klara’s affections for Mikkelsen’s Lukas. It appears only briefly and is very subdued, but it marks the first bit of original scoring you’ll hear in the film. Later, a beautifully played acoustic guitar over low strings announces the main theme for The Hunt, a somber and remorseful piece heard in "Hunting" and expanded upon in "The Hunt Theme", the latter of which I highly recommend. The acoustic guitar over strings returns in the faintly classical "Arrival Manor House", this track’s melody coming across as the simpler, even more mournful cousin of Stanley Myers’ "Cavatina". The ensemble further suggests lingering tragedy with some minor respite in “The End”, this piece going heavier on the strings but thankfully steering clear of straight melodrama. Other tracks, including "Supermarket" and "Dog’s Funeral", amount to little more than ambient droning, effectively angst-inducing in the film but passable on album.
Taking cues from other successfully tension-building efforts, Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt makes sparse use of its composer Nikolaj Egelund. Given this constraint, though, Egelund still manages to construct a pretty albeit understated theme for acoustic guitar and small ensemble, heard in "The Hunt Theme". The meager album release clocks in at just over 16 minutes so, at 4:20, "The Hunt Theme" is by far the most rewarding and developed piece of music in the film. Though it won’t take up too much of your time to also check out "Arrival Manor House" and "The End", those pieces are mostly extensions of the sound best represented in that main theme. All in all, a fine but slight effort from Egelund.