The Hunt (15)

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Screened at FACT December 2012

Reviewed by Joe Coventry


Atmospherically shot in a small Danish enclave (Vinterberg)'s setting for this morbid, psycho-sexual drama follows his recent foray into this area with Festen.

Nothing much happens here except some collateral damage to the timid deer in the annual hunt. With little to do on cold winter nights, life revolves around procreation or partying on booze and venison steaks. There is also a male-bonding contest to see who will be the first to jump into the icy, cold November waters of the local lake. A full frontal, naked run towards the camera leaves nothing to the imagination of an watching appereciative crowd.

Down the road the village Kindergarten is thriving. Lucas (Mikkelson) has gained employment there after losing his teaching job and his son Marcus (Folgelstrom) to the custody of his estranged wife. His morose and introverted persona brightens when he interacts boisteriously in play sessions where most of the kids enthusiastically join in but Klara (Wedderkopp) is more reticent to do so. She suffers from lack of attention at home and her father Theo (Bo Larson) is happy to let his best friend help out on the school run. During one rowdy play session, her inhibitions lowered, she plants a kiss firmly on Lucas's lips and his negative reaction is perceived as rejection.

Back in her troubled home, she overhears her brooding teenage brother's hysterical outpourings over some internet porn. The next time she is in Kindergarten, and last to be picked up again, to garner attention she confides in Grethe (Wold), repeating what she has heard but now compromising Lucas with carrying out the act. Called in by Grethe, he is stunned to hear the allegations and is sent home on leave while the school authorities investigate. This leaves viewers to wonder where do they get their Eduactional Welfare Officers from?

As the situation spirals out of control everybody working at, and the parent's of the children attending the Kindergarten, are informed of possible child abuse. Lucas, however, is kept in the dark by officialdom, only hearing what is going on via his girlfriend Nadja (Rappaport) and Lucas, as the opprobrium intensifies. During his increasing alienation, Klara incongruously knocks on Lucas's door to ask if she can walk his dog, Fanny. He sends her home fearing reprisals.

More rejection?

Lucas's job goes and his world, not unexpectedly, falls apart. Any intercessions by himself or Marcus get short shrift and lead to actual bodily harm against both. The tension is ratcheted up when he is eventually taken in by Police for questioning. With all the children now singing from the same hymn sheet, of being violated in his cellar, his get out jail card is that his house does not have one and a judge formally releases him.

The thwarted, communal mindset is still disbelieving. His house is attacked and Fanny is meanheartedly killed and unceremoniously dumped in a carrier bag outside his frontdoor.

It's Christmas Eve. Battered, bruised and drunk, Lucas turns up at the Church service. During the Kindergarten Choir carol singing he snaps, violently turning on Theo, as chaos ensues. A reconciliation between the two takes place later at Lucas's house. Back home with Klara, Theo listens to, but does not affirm, that she has made it all up.

A year later Lucas has been reintergrated into communal life and at Marcus's coming of age party he is presented with his grandfather's rifle. In a final twist, Lucas and Klara are again thrown togther. The encounter, innocent and disturbing in turns, goes unnoticed - or does it?

Telescopic sights at the ready it's that time of year again. A shot rings out in the surprisingly sunny and airy woods. Framed on a rise in the ground, in an ethereal halo of light, the shooter dissolves back into the trees. Almost simultaneously, a shell-shocked Lucas slumps to the ground and the glazed expression in his eyes anticipates that his real nightmare may only just be beginning.

Great perfomances from the leads, especially the enigmatic Wedderkopp, but the lesser roles come over with the spite and venom that this screenplay demands. It may not be easy on the eye, but in today's fraught society this film carries a prescient message.

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