19 August 2013 | jdesando
Classy and disturbing tale of small town injustice.
In Thomas Vinterberg's superb psychological thriller, The Hunt, a town turns on its kindergarten teacher, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), from the erroneous testimony of a little girl, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), who accuses him of molesting her. She's also the daughter of his best friend, Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen), who believes along with the town that Lucas is guilty because children, especially his daughter, don't lie. Although Klara claims throughout she said a stupid thing and Lucas did nothing, his parents are convinced she is just reacting to the gravity and changing her story. Tragic blindness is not just the province of Oedipus.
The film's title, with bookending male hunting rituals, is obviously figurative for the hunt by the town's people for Lucas's well being. Only too swift is their condemnation, their righteous indignation, blinded by Salem-witch like certainty that he is guilty. The town's vigilante-like attitude is reminiscent of Frankenstein's townsfolk, hounding the monster without even trying to understand.
Beyond the figurative display of crowd wrong-headed mentality is the disturbing suggestion that at any time a life can be turned upside down without even being responsible. It also suggests that the only antidote is to keep believing in yourself.
Maybe more powerful is a sense of humor, which occurs occasionally in the film and is best exemplified when a friend, upon Lucas's return from police headquarters, shouts as Lucas embraces his son, "Hey! If you fondle your kid, you'll go back to jail." It's gallows humor, but it is effective. Just as effective as the ironic humor is the low-key, natural lighting, consistent close-ups, and ubiquitous hand-held camera work. It is an intimate business that closes in on everyone in the town, not just the innocent victim.
Having witnessed through this intense work of art the vulnerability all have in the face of a crowd mentality, we should remember the Chorus's final warning in Oedipus Rex: "Therefore wait to see life's ending ere thou count one mortal blest; Wait till free from pain and sorrow he has gained his final rest."