I recently wrote an article for Influx where I discussed the first of several wonderful films that Mads Mikkelsen has made.  If the name isn’t familiar, Mikkelsen has recently come to the attention of audiences outside his native Denmark with a role as a Bond villain in Casino Royale as well as his new hit American TV show Hannibal.  This is my second article in the series.

One of my favorite foreign language films it Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration (“Festen”). It’s an absorbing tale about sexual abuse–abuse that comes out during a birthday party for a beloved family patriarch. Now, with The Hunt (“Jagten”), Vinterberg directs a film where quite the opposite happens–a man is accused of sexual abuse but who is 100% innocent. Had the director always done films denying sexual abuse, folks might have thought him strange but here the brave director allows himself to go in a completely different direction with his movie.

The Hunt
Directed by
Thomas Vinterberg
Cast
Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp
Release Date
17 October 2013
Martin’s Grade: A

In his film, Mads Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a divorced father who works at a kindergarten. He seems like a genuinely nice man and is trying to get his life together. He has a new girlfriend, his son wants to come live with him and he has no reason to expect what happens. However, a very young girl is shown some pornographic material by some older boys and later in passing she tells another teacher that she has seen Lucas’ penis when she actually didn’t. Some folks investigate and ask leading questions–and suddenly there is a bit of hysteria as the community assumes Lucas is guilty–even his so-called friends. And, no matter what he does, he cannot PROVE he never did anything.

So is the film any good? Well, based on it now being on IMDb’s Top 250 list (at number 123), it’s obvious a lot of folks loved the film. With a current score of 8.3, it’s not at all surprising it would be nominated for the Oscar. As for me, I thought the film was terrific and thought-provoking. It made its point very well by using VERY vivid scenes involving the community literally tormenting Lucas. You can’t help but feel affected by the drama–thanks to the script by Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg himself.

I did have one problem with the film. Although I think such a theme is great stuff for older kids and teens to watch with their folks, there are a few graphic scenes that were unnecessary for the film and which would probably make many of these parents not show the movie to their families. I think the kids need to see the violence against Lucas but the sex scene and photo weren’t really needed in the film. A very light trimming would have made this a great film for ages 12 and older. Now, because it’s rated R in the US, it’s unlikely these younger viewers would get to see it. This film needs to be seen by a wide audience as it’s very, very well made and worth seeing.

By the way, in many ways, this film is like a dramatization of what occurred in the very famous McMartin Pre-School case here in America. Apparently, some very unqualified interviewers screwed up a case and soon had half the school accused of sexual abuse. Some of the stories they reported were downright insane (such as their victimizers being able to fly). Many folks were prosecuted and only later did folks realize what had occurred–a serious rush to judgment. And, as there was no real proof, the accused were all acquitted–but only after years and years of investigations and trials. And, in one case, one of the accused spent five years in jail despite no ultimate conviction.

Also, if you are curious about me, I used to work with sexual abuse victims and perpetrators as a therapist. I am NOT minimizing sexual abuse claims in my review of the film. Too many women are ignored or treated like dirt when they are victims–I’ve seen this myself. It’s just the unqualified and irresponsible interviews with very small children that bothers me. I’ve worked with many folks in the field and saw that most interviewers (at least back in the 1980s and 90s) were woefully untrained and potentially dangerous because of this.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Martin Hafer