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The Hunt

September 19, 2013

The Hunt (2012)
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Actors: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lasse Fogelstrøm

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Synopsis: Danish infant school teacher, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), becomes subject to unsubstantiated allegations of paedophilia from one of the little girls in his school. He is victimised by the community, until the father of the little girl – who is incidentally one of his best friends – begins to question Lucas’s culpability.

Review: If you want lurid, exploitative cinema, then look no further than the Danes, and following on from similar fraught and soapy efforts with ‘high concepts’ like Brødre, Arven, and even Thomas Vinterberg’s own hugely overhyped Festen, comes this distasteful paedophilia parable The Hunt.

With The Hunt, Vinterberg’s initial hooks on paedophilia and mob culture are of some value – namely how a very young girl could confuse feelings for an adult with a jarring, accidental subjection to a sexual image (although Atonement dealt with this dialectic infinitely more intelligently), and also how a community might tiptoe around the notion of disbelieving a young girl, especially if it meant the easy casting of aspersions on a marginal ‘outsider’. This early set-up is all well and good, but it’s how Vinterberg develops it that really betrays how he’s only shoehorning it in for the purposes of trashy sensationalism. For example, there’s something dubious and even disingenuous about the way the drama purposely excludes the normal social frameworks that would necessarily vet what are in reality extremely serious allegations, both against the accused (if guilty), but also for the accused, as the claims would need vigorous scrutiny in case he is ultimately innocent. We hear nothing about child psychologists, police investigations, and only a piecemealed off-camera segment about a court hearing. And I can accept Vinterberg’s accused, Lucas, being made a slightly awkward, taboo character in the community, but the minute we get scenes of (huge spoiler alert!) the brutal murdering of his dog and an inordinately violent assault on him when he goes shopping, then we know we’re in the titillating genre territory of a Fatal Attraction.  What I think The Hunt and this tangent of Danish cinema as a whole seems to confuse is the mere inclusion of serious themes and subject matter with an assumed profundity. (September 2013)

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