Thursday, 11 January 2018

The Hunt Review

Number 124 on the top 1000 films of all time is the Danish psychological thriller, the Hunt.

Set during Christmas in a small Danish town, the Hunt focusses on, Lucas, (Mads Mikkelsen)a kindergarten teacher who is down his luck.  He is separated from his wife who holds custody over his son.  Just as it looks like his luck is improving, one of his students, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) falsely accuses him of sexually abusing her, after he spurns her affections for him.  Klara is also the daughter of Lucas' best friend, Theo.  Lucas' life spirals out of control, as the lie takes hold within his close-knit community.

What makes the Hunt so good is how it tackles the idea of the modern-day witch hunt.  Rather than shying away from the issue, it portrays it in raw and unflinching detail.  The Hunt was released in 2012 in the wake of Operation and Yewtree and reports of paedophilia within the Catholic Church.  However, it is just as relevant now, as it was then.

Think of the sexual abuse scandal in Hollywood and how some celebrities were more quickly condemned than others.  Harvey Weinstein was torn apart instantly, but people were more hesitant when it came to Kevin Spacey.  Online, I found plenty of people who were ready to defend him.  It's interesting who we choose to condemn and who we don't.

And this context is what makes the Hunt such a powerful film.  Even after, the police determine Lucas' innocence, he continues to be ostracised by his community.  This culminates with his house being bricked, his dog being killed and him being beaten up and ejected from his local supermarket.

As we're aware of his innocence, this was painful to watch.  Lucas is a sympathetic character, as we know he is a good man who would never do what he has been accused of, yet it is a little girl's word against his.  While our justice system claims to be innocent until guilty, this is almost never the case, as people's emotions cloud their judgement.  This is only worsened by how it is a little girl accusing her male teacher.

If we're going to discuss gender inequality in the workplace, then let's consider how teaching, especially of younger children, is dominated by women.  This is because people just aren't comfortable with men being around young girls, while forgetting that women can and do abuse boys.  These women often go unpunished and if they are, they receive a fraction of the punishment that men do.  For some men, their lives can be destroyed over baseless accusations, and some do take their own lives.

While this doesn't happen to Lucas, his experiences are still troubling to watch, as it is scarily believable.  Mads Mikklesen was great, as the tortured Lucas.  I felt very sorry for him, as he struggled between the truth and the lies.

If the film falls down anywhere, it would be the ending.  After Klara realises the consequences of her actions, she protests Lucas' innocence, but nobody believes her.  This is until the ending, where Theo realises the truth and brings Lucas, Christmas dinner, as a way of making amends.

The film then jumps forward by a year, where we see that Lucas has been accepted back into the community, which I thought was unrealistic.  As previously mentioned, some men's lives are irreparably damaged from unfounded accusations, and so a year seemed too quick for Lucas to be forgiven.  That is until he and his son, Marcus, go on a hunting trip in the woods.  A stranger fires at Lucas and we only catch a glimpse of him, as the film ends.  Whether this stranger was real or imaginative, is unclear, but it's obvious that not everybody has forgiven Lucas.

I think the film should have ended either with Theo and Lucas making amends or with the hunting scene, as that would have created more ambiguity.  Having Lucas being forgiven felt like too clean of an ending for situations which end anything but.

But this is a minor criticism for what was an enthralling film.  Mikklesen is great as Lucas and the Hunt engages important issues in a sensitive, but poignant manner.  It's a definite, must-watch. 

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