The Hunt

By Emily Cracknell

Mailed on January 27, 2014

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Dear Thomas Vinterberg
Director and Co-Screenwriter

Dear Thomas,

1995 to 2013, that's the leap from your critically acclaimed Dogme film_ The Celebration_ to the release of this year's Oscar-nominated The Hunt.

This time I hope the critical acclaim sticks and you don't make any dodgy films with Claire Danes. I didn't love It's All About Love, I don't think many did. After it was critically panned you seemed to disappear into the Danish woodwork while Lars von Trier, your former Dogme collaborator, was storming Cannes. But perhaps this was for the better.

While nearly two decades divide the films, The Celebration and The Hunt _share similar subject matter: child abuse. In _The Celebration, Christian seeks to reveal the truth of his father's abuse, while in The Hunt, Lucas seeks to prove his own innocence. Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) finds himself at the centre of a witch hunt when a child's hurt feelings are misconstrued. Just when his lonely life seems to be taking a turn for the better it all comes tumbling down, as his tight-knit community turns against him.

Lucas works at the local nursery, he's been downsized since the local school closed down. At home it's just him and his dog, Fanny. He and his estranged wife are battling over the custody of his child, Marcus, who he only gets to see on alternate weekends. But he's still got his friends and their local hunt group. Life gets better though. His son is about to move in and he's got a fresh love interest: his house is about to be full. But this abruptly changes when his best friend's daughter appears to make allegations of sexual abuse. His promised bright new life is about to come crashing down.

Mikkelsen gives an excellent performance as Lucas, but it's the children who really sparkle. Annika Wedderkropp is stunning as Klara; a lonely, ignored child who mistakenly hurts the man she most cares about. Lasse Foglestrøm as Marcus, Lucas' son, is terrific too, as he fights for his father's reputation.

When I sat down to watch this film I was prepared for horrific things. I diligently waited as the beautiful scenery was set: the lovely architecture, the Springer Spaniel, the idyllic countryside and the fast friendships. I steeled myself for extremely violent visions; that never came. The most endearing aspect of the film is the fact it doesn't try to go for the obvious highs of hysteria; there is instead a slow and unnerving creep. There was violence. But it didn't reach the heights or constancy that I imagine many film-makers would have indulged in. For that I thank you. I didn't want to watch a film ripped from the salacious world of the tabloids.

Instead I was pleasantly surprised. You focused on the relationships and the heart of the matter: trust. An element the characters all previously took for granted, something which they shall never do again. Klara's allegations hurt even more because she is Theo's daughter, Lucas's life-long best friend. Theo finds himself caught between believing his oldest friend or his young daughter. While Lucas finds the whole community turned against him including his dearest friends, with only a few key supporters left behind. It becomes clear that what matters most isn't that he is no longer trusted, but that he no longer knows who he can trust.

After this more nuanced character portrayal I'm sure Claire Danes wouldn't mind a call, if she's on hiatus from Homeland, I think you'd be in luck.

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