Film Review: The Hunt
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Opens at the Charles Theatre July 26
Perhaps in childhood or in church, you heard that story of the gossiping woman instructed to climb to a church’s bell tower with a pillow, then tear the pillow and shake out all its feathers into the wind as penance for her transgression; then she was told to collect the feathers that had scattered hither and thither. No need for a sermon to explain the allegory here: An untruth, once uttered, cannot be retracted and its inevitable spread cannot be stopped. The Hunt, a Danish film, illustrates this same tale, except the consequences of the lie do not affect its teller—instead, they fall sharply, like an axe, on the subject of the lie.
Lucas, played by one of Denmark’s best-known stars, Mads Mikkelsen (familiar to American audiences from Casino Royale and the Hannibal TV series), is a soft-spoken, likeable man. Recently divorced from a wife we never meet, the mere mention of whose name causes his dog to erupt into a barking fit, Lucas works at the local kindergarten, where the children adore him, eagerly awaiting his arrival in the afternoons, tackling him once he steps foot on the playground. He hopes his teenage son, Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom), will soon come to live with him, though his wife insists Marcus doesn’t want that, that he thinks his father’s profession is pathetic.
Despite his modest life, Lucas is possessed of a merry, boisterous band of friends and neighbors. They drink together, hunt together, go polar-bear plunging together. Danish culture, as depicted in the men’s gatherings at a sylvan lodge, seems something out of an old storybook. His best friend, Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen), lives along his route to the kindergarten and Lucas often walks Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), Theo’s small daughter, to school.
Things are looking up for Lucas when Klara, a wee blond girl with a twitchy nose that’s either cute or supremely irritable, develops a crush on him. Klara tells a lie then, and Lucas suffers irrecoverably. What follows the falsehood is something like The Scarlet Letter, but with an innocent man in the mix.
The Hunt is one of two Danish films opening this weekend at the Charles, the second being A Hijacking; both are excellent (and share a screenwriter, Tobias Lindholm) and superbly structured, stretching their plots taut on solid frameworks, giving the audience a moment’s slack before tightening their grip more than ever. Between the two, this reviewer might choose The Hunt—it’s a tough call—but if you have the time, make it a double-feature.