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Film Review: 'The Hunt' tackles social problems

July 11, 2013|By Andy Klein
  • Susse Wold, Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen and Lasse Fogelstrom in "The Hunt," a Magnolia Pictures release.
Susse Wold, Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen and Lasse… (Photo courtesy…)

On one level, Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt" is a species of "social problem" cinema; but more compellingly it's a slow-burn thriller. The publicity tries to avoid specifying the film's central issue, but one is likely to guess early on what the focus will be. And it's impossible to talk about the film without "spoiling" this "surprise"; in any case, it's sprung on us less than 15 minutes in, so nothing in the rest of this review deserves a spoiler alert.

Mads Mikkelsen (the villain in "Casino Royale") stars as Lucas, a mild-mannered 40-something teacher in a small Danish town. He and his ex-wife argue over his visitation hours with his teenage son (Lasse Fogelstrom); at the same time, budget cutbacks have resulted in his school being closed, so he's forced to work at the local kindergarten. In short, his life is not going well...and it's about to get much, much worse.

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Among his charges is Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), the five-year-old daughter of his longtime best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen). She loves spending time with Lucas and walking his dog. One day, Klara — after what she perceives as a rejection — mischievously gets revenge by suggesting to Grethe (Susse Wold), the school's principal, that she has seen Lucas's naked erect penis. Grethe takes the suggestion very seriously, immediately informing the police and bringing in a psychologist. He in turn pushes Klara to repeat her statement and plants the notion that any denial is simply the result of her traumatized mind wisely suppressing the horrible events. The other students are interviewed in ways that push them to validate the investigators' worst suspicions.

As word spreads, Lucas's life rapidly deteriorates. He becomes a pariah; his ex tries to get his visitation rights completely revoked. Local shops refuse his business. Close friends either avoid him or beat him up; soon the violence escalates and threatens what's left of his family.

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