In 1999, Danish director Thomas Vinterberg announced himself as a major talent with the devastating family drama Festen. Adhering to the strict code of Dogme 95, the film eschewed the use of such unnecessary tools as lighting and special effects in favour or story and raw, emotional storytelling. The film was a tour-de-force and many predicted a long and much vaunted career lay ahead for Vinterberg, much like his compatriot Lars Von Trier. It’s taken him thirteen years to produce a film of comparable quality but The Hunt is comfortably Vinterberg’s best film since Festen.
Mads Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a kind, good natured primary school teacher who is extremely popular amongst his students and contemporaries. This all changes when an accusation is made against by one of his young students. We, the audience, know the accusation to be false but it doesn’t take long before Mikkelsen’s life is slowly unravelling and he’s being assaulted in the local supermarket.
As we see a good man’s life being torn apart by events that are out of his control, the tension winds tighter and tighter, and the somewhat inevitable aspects of the conclusion draw ever nearer.
The film is most notable for the magnificent performance from lead actor Mikkelsen. He won the best actor award at Cannes and it’s a thoroughly deserved accolade. Mikkelsen is probably best known to UK audiences for playing the villainous Le Chiffre in Casino Royale but he’s been one of the most brooding and physical screen presences in European cinema for a few years now and The Hunt sees him brilliantly playing against type. There’s not a moment where he doesn’t have the audience empathising with him. A couple of the plot developments may stretch believability but this is a superior and quietly devastating drama that has already been picked up for UK distribution by Arrow Films.