Tuesday, 18 December 2012

REVIEW - THE HUNT


A teacher in a small town is accused of sexually assaulting a pupil; one would expect suspicion to spread through the town, slowly corroding at the innocent man's safety and sanity. There's nothing slow about it, because there's no suspicion, only certainty. Children lie all the time - and this victim is, indeed, a liar - but adults are quick to forget this, and don't once consider that any child could tell such a lie. We are shown how this girl has come to make so dangerous a claim - from her perspective, in her naivety, it is rash yet reasonable. She will regret it, if not comprehend its consequences entirely. Her parents and the town's other adults would rather mete out a most dreadful, extended punishment to the accused than live in the knowledge that she made a silly mistake. Their fear and disgust may provoke fear and disgust in you - it's always aggravating to see stupid people use base means to belittle those whom they don't even try to understand. Thomas Vinterberg is excellent at stoking outrage in his audience, and his sharp, naturalistic style is central to The Hunt's throttling intensity. He ends the film on an interesting note of curious hope, killed by a sting in the tail that emphasises the bleak notion that we are all ruled by our instincts and our emotions, and that the good will always be made to suffer at the hands of the bad. I might have liked an even bleaker ending. Vinterberg settles into each scene marvellously, and he's great at creating a subtle tension in moments, augmenting their thematic complexity. He's less subtle at other times: the head teacher, whose reactions are panicked, pathetic and self-righteous, and whose response causes more damage than anyone else's, the principal aggressor is the biggest brute in the bunch, the only humorous characters are also the only ones on Lucas' side. But this is mere nit-picking. The Hunt is an extremely powerful film, with an outstanding cast, led by Mads Mikkelsen, one of the finest actors in film, and with equally brilliant work from Thomas Bo Larsen, and Annika Wedderkopp as the accuser, in an astonishingly nuanced performance. Every cast member is magnificent.