The Hunt (Danish, 2012)
A lie reiterated turns a truth. Children, across every culture, are considered and believed to be divine. Children never lie, owing to their innocence. Thomas Vinterberg’s ‘Jagten’ aka ‘The Hunt’ dares to look into the flip side. The film follows the emotional turmoil of a man, from the times of his character assassination by a petite but powerful and sensitive lie that a naïve kid cooks up against him and the aftermath.
Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), separated from his family- now a loner longing for the reunion with his son Marcus- is a nursery school teacher. Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), not just Lucas’ pupil but also his dearest pal Theo’s (Thomas Bo Larsen) loving daughter, who gets little disoriented. Lucas as teacher and friend corrects her naïve crush for him politely. Things get messy and all hell breaks loose, while Klara, identified as a girl of vivid imagination, levels up sexual abuse charges against Lucas – drawing from an obscene image shown by her brother.
Her kindergarten chief Grethe, buys Klara’s whole story and notifies the issue to the parents in the local community. Everyone believe it without even caring to cross check the actuality with the accused. Lucas is never a suspect before their eyes but is declared guilty instantly. The friendly lads in the locality at once turn extremely hostile, go on to the extent of depriving him even from shopping in the neighborhood.
The hunt is an intense drama, packed with least dramatic sequences, in my view. The reactions of the characters appear logically convincing rather than plainly constructed. The behavioural patterns of every individual on screen mirror almost exactly like those when confronting similar situation for real. The progression of the story takes the character Lucas to the emotional extremes and humiliates him as the plot develops. But it is not achieved by painting a bad picture on Klara.
The screenplay devotes itself in pondering how each character would react to such emotionally overwhelming predicament. It shows us how the community victimizes the accused, despising in every way they could.
Even after Lucas is found innocent by the police authorities, the locals are not ready to but it. People when convinced with one view point are most unlikely to change their opinions. Marcus as a loving son who stand by his father, in desperation to bring him back; Helpless Agnes, who struggles to stomach her daughter’s (fictitious) trauma; Theo’s difficulty in taking sides between the persona of a father and that of a loving friend, unable to justify both at the same time. Lucas at the eye of this storm has his resilience tested to its limit.
The Hunt strikes at two chords. Primarily it examines the judgmental mentality of human beings characterized by the prejudiced opinions and preconceived notions over others. It is this that deprives Agnes from believing her daughter, even after she declares of being foolish on leveling false charges against Lucas. Though Klara initiates the predicament, it is the firm beliefs of the elders and their failure to revive their mental imagery of Lucas. Even after a year when everything appears back to normalcy, Lucas remains vulnerable with someone trying to hunt him down. The hunter is never revealed and remains as the element of suspense.
Next the film throws light on the common opinions on which people build their belief systems. Nothing in the world could be generalized and there are always exceptions in everything, for in case of human reactions and behavioural pattern. The film though keen in showcasing the collective hysteria in a society, briefly it accounts for the blind imitations of children, given more children in the nursery dodge complaints following Klara’s decorated with vivid descriptions of the Luca’s basement, which is totally invented.
The Hunt makes the viewers anxious and hunts them not with the plot constructed but with the disturbing side of the truth on which it is conceived. It calls for revival of opinions and ideas those remain static and fixed in the mental dungeons of the human mind.