“Lies and secrets are like a cancer in the soul. They eat away what is good and leave only destruction behind.”
Little white lies are often harmless tales we use in order to get out of things we just don’t want to do. Harmless or not, lies rarely stay stagnant; they often grow so much over time that they barely resemble the initial deception that started it all. The result can not only destroy someone’s life, but also cause all sorts of unintentional collateral damage. The Hunt is an amazing film that made me feel angry, sad, and very uncomfortable throughout…as it should and probably intends to do. It shows just what can happen when a lie told, even innocently enough, splits a community and turn lifelong friends into bitter enemies.
Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen, Casino Royale) and Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) are best friends, and their families are as close as can be. But when Theo’s young daughter Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) accuses Lucas of being inappropriate with her, it wreaks havoc on the community who would prefer to believe that Lucas is a monster, rather than entertain the idea that a sweet little girl may have told a horrific lie.
Things will never be the same again in the small Danish town featured in Thomas Vinterberg’s film The Hunt. The director best known for his work on the 1998 movie The Celebration, also co-wrote this film (with Tobias Lindholm) about the destructive lie told by a lonely and needy young girl named Klara.
Little Klara (Wedderkopp) is the crucial element in this story. This paradoxical young girl is sweet and innocent, yet smart enough to know that what she is accusing Lucas of will hurt him — she just doesn’t know how much damage her tale will cause. The Hunt is the only film listed on her IMDb page, but the poise of young Annika Wedderkopp is that of a seasoned pro. Her character has a homelife with parents who often neglect her, and fight constantly — usually about her, their only daughter. Lucas is best friends with Klara’s father, Theo, and is frequently there for her when her parents are too busy screaming at each other to notice her existence. But she soon begins to depend on Lucas, treating him as her very own, and when the young girl feels scorned by him, she makes him pay with her lie. Talk about hell hath no fury.
We never really know who Klara is, or what is going on in her head that would cause her to do such a horrible thing. Her stare is intense, you can see the wheels turning, but a clear picture of her is never achieved. This isn’t a bad thing, it makes sense considering the havoc she is wreaking in the life of a man she cares for, and how oblivious she is to the toll it has taken on her parents and Lucas. But there’s a sense that something is a bit off about the child, a girl who is known for her vivid imagination. In the special features, Vinterberg and Mikkelsen make it clear that Annika wasn’t told the specific details of what the character was accusing Lucas of, just that she said something that was a lie. Vinterberg said that she seemed to understand inherently what was going on, and it shows in her performance.
Mads Mikkelsen is one of those dashingly handsome and talented actors who could be a leading man here in the States. With a quiet strength and gentleness that can make a lady swoon, he draws you to his character Lucas not with pity, but with courage. He obviously loves kids (in an appropriate way), and is in the midst of some life changing events: a divorce and the loss of his teaching job. He’s in a bitter battle with his ex over the amount of time he is able to spend with their teenaged son, Marcus, and takes the job at the kindergarten Klara attends, in the hopes that employment will change his ex-wife’s mind and she’ll work with him so that he can see his son more often. Just when things seem to be going his way, this bomb of an accusation is thrown at Lucas and he must gain the strength to not only fight the charges, but the people who were once his friends, and continue his battle to gain more time with Marcus.
You get the sense that none of the adults are doing this to Lucas out of hate, the people in this close knit community believe that little Klara is a victim, and are doing what they think is best in order to help her. It’s just that they assumed a truth where none was, without taking adequate measures to dig deeper into her story. In their defense, her story is quite believable because of the details she provides, but there is a reason her description is so vivid, and it has nothing to do with Lucas. As things quickly spiral out of control, even Klara isn’t sure what the truth is anymore.
Mikkelsen and Wedderkopp are surrounded by a fantastic cast that includes Thomas Bo Larsen who plays Klara’s father, Theo; a man who drinks too much, fights with his wife far too often and reacts instead of thinks. Lasse Fogelstrøm plays Marcus, the teenaged son of Lucas who stands by his father in the face of these accusations. The Hunt is a tough film to watch because of the lives ruined by one terrible lie. But because of the wonderful performances, the excellent writing and the solid directing, this Danish import is well worth watching.
The Hunt is brought to you in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation, beautifully highlighting the rich colors of the more remote, woodsy areas of Denmark. The dialogue is in Danish, and the Dolby 5.1 audio brings that language to life; but there are easy to read subtitles for those of us who are linguistically challenged. Extras include deleted and extended scenes, and an alternate ending that could’ve easily replaced what was in the final cut and still resulted in a great film. A making of featurette that was just the right amount of info and interview, steering clear of the tendency to drag on for far too long.
The Hunt is a deeply moving film that isn’t trying to make a case or defend any one character. It’s a story about love, friendship, fatherhood, and the loss of innocence, and how lies and fear can collapse an entire community.