If you were to ask an audience why they go to the cinema, rent, buy, stream or pirate movies, you can almost guarantee their answer would be that they watch movies to be entertained. However, if you’re lucky [read: unlucky], you’ll watch a film and know, even whist it’s playing in front of you, that it is going to stay with you for a long time. I felt the same about The Hunt as I did about Martyrs; both films shocked me to my core, as both tackle the human condition, albeit in totally different ways.
The Hunt sees Mads Mikkelson play Lucas, a teacher at a small nursery in a marginally larger village. Just as life is taking a turn for the better, after a seemingly nasty divorce, a little, innocent lie spirals out of control, forcing Lucas and his son, Marcus, to face the increasing tension alone together.
This is not a film to watch. Much like after Martyrs, when the credits rolled I felt like my emotions had been hung, drawn and quartered. There was no gore (apart from a few bloody noses/eyebrows), very little bad language, and a quick sex scene, but the subject matter the movie deals with is harrowing, compelling, depressing, and frightening. Mikkelson is 10/10 in his role as a man who loses almost everything, with one of the most believable performances I have seen in recent times. There were points in the movie when I felt every emotion, felt every single thread of dignity he was trying to maintain while going about his daily business in a village that was totally against him. Before the disruption in his life you see all of the little incidents and know exactly where the film is going, which makes it even more difficult to watch. The movie has a very European ending, which is to say we are left questioning the film. There is resolution but not in a classical Hollywood narrative way. I think this is another reason it weighs so heavy on the mind.
Vinterberg has done an amazing job with the direction, with nods to French New Wave jump cuts, which alienate the audience, but are also an indicator of how human behaviour can be so erratic. The camerawork is also fantastic, with a perfect mixture of shots; handheld, the Dutch angle and wide shots all add to the rich tapestry of the movie. And the setting, it goes without saying, is beautifully haunting.
The Hunt is a movie about fear, paranoia, gossip, lies, and being too close-minded to consider a situation objectively. It’s about innocence, the projection of innocence and the loss of innocence. The acting is top draw, the setting is beautiful and the direction faultless. Everyone should watch this movie, but I really cannot suggest a time, place or situation in which it should be watched.