PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

Both the Accuser and the Accused Are Lost in 'The Hunt'

As the children in The Hunt are being raised up into a community premised on assumptions and lies, you can only feel worried for them.


The Hunt (Jagten)

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Alexandra Rapaport, Annika Wedderkopp, Susse Wold, Lars Ranthe, Anne Louise Hassing
Rated: R
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Year: 2012
US date: 2013-07-11 (Limited release)
UK date: 2013-09-09 (General release)
Website
Trailer
"Being too civilized is not always good."

-- Thomas Vinterberg

"I'm lost," says little Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), her face tilted up to look at Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen). When he asks after her parents, five-year-old Klara tries to reconstruct how she's arrived at this spot, on the sidewalk outside a local market in the small Danish town where they live. "I forgot to look where I was going," she says quietly, "All of a sudden, I was here." Ah well, Lucas smiles, he'll take her home. And so they walk, hand in hand, framed in a long shot, a long road stretching behind and before them.

The scene comes early in The Hunt (Jagten), establishing the trust between Lucas and Klara (whose parents are, in fact, his close friends) as well as a vague, entirely familiar awkwardness. When they arrive at her home Klara dad and mum, Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Agnes (Anne Louise Hassing) spend less time worrying about how she wandered off than Lucas' current distress, owing to an ongoing custody battle over his teenaged son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrøm). "Everything's fine," Lucas insists, the camera panning across the kitchen from one man's face to the other, even as Theo, his friend since childhood, observes, "I can tell when you're lying, your eye is twitching."

And so The Hunt is underway. On one, most obvious level, the film is about lying, a plot point and theme initiated when, a few scenes later, Klara lies about an encounter with Lucas, sort of saying that she's seen his erect penis, by mimicking a phrase she's heard from her older brother Torsten (Sebastian Bull Sarning) and his rowdy friends one afternoon. But the film is also about how lying is perceived and assumed by others. The adults who hear Klara's story believe it right away, unable to imagine she would lie, and so mount something of a "witch hunt" against Lucas, who has otherwise and previously been a model citizen, a beloved assistant at Klara's kindergarten, not to mention a great father and trusted friend.

While Theo supposes he can "know" when Lucas is lying, the film makes the more complicated that lying is not always visible or intentional. Klara's begins with a moment of upset, a perception of rejection that she's not nearly old enough to sort out. Once she blurts out the charge, the adults around her -- first the kindergarten principal Grethe (Susse Wold), then Ole (Bjarne Henriksen), a therapist friend Grethe brings in to question the child -- become eager to help but also to shape her story to fit their own expectations. As Ole sits across from the child in a tiny room, helping her with details ("Did you touch it? Did something white come out of it?"), the camera frames them separately, the handheld camera making each close-up uneasy. In Klara's shots, Grethe occasionally hovers in the background, sometimes in focus and sometimes not, her distress a visceral effect, her face blurred and her eyes averted.

Here the film doesn't so much indict Klara as suggest how she's cornered, in a different way than Lucas. Young, poised, and a little unnerving, she's obviously less able than adults to make judgments, but she's also the one figure, apart from Lucas, who has a sense of what happened or didn't. Klara tries a couple of times to retract the charge (I"I just said something foolish"), but once word is out, no adult can backtrack, can imagine an alternative story. These adults include Lucas' new and distinctly beautiful girlfriend, Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport). Also an assistant at the kindergarten, she first resists the group pressure created by her and Lucas' mutual colleagues, then succumbs, at least in his eyes, when she asks him to confirm his innocence to her.

His misreading -- if that's what it is -- is not so acute or as consequential as that of his accusers, however. When Marcus arrives on his doorstep, Lucas welcomes the support, but otherwise leaves the boy to manage his own emotional upset, this especially when Lucas is dragged off in handcuffs. The cascading hysterias here lead to one heavy-handed point after another, coming to a kind of head when Marcus heads off to Klara's house to question her, to make her tell "the truth."

That he's a child himself is lost on every adult in a house full of holiday revelers. As they descend on him, the camera pitches from living room sofa to doorway to driveway, as one man after another pushes the boy about, in a bit of madness that ends when one father actually punches Marcus to the ground and they send him off to walk home down the same road Lucas once walked with Klara, bloodied and bruised.

The assault on Marcus is shot in a way that recalls the film's first scene, in which Lucas and Theo and this group of other dads are gathered in the woods, bonding over a deer hunt and other manly activities (hiking, drinking, swimming naked). Too obviously, the boy -- and by extension, his father -- is here the prey, and the men's boisterous behavior is here monstrous rather than merely crude. That the men (and their wives) are so horrified by trauma and also so able and willing to impose it on another child is one of the film's most terrible and terrifying insights.

Marcus' face in this scene -- as he's enraged and inarticulate toward Klara, as he's frightened and furious at the sudden mob of equally inarticulate adults -- does more effective emotional work than The Hunt's occasionally contrived and overbearing moments, scenes in which Lucas is berated or his dog goes missing, in which guns are wielded not as metaphors of masculine prowess, but as plain instruments of violence. The movie underlines repeatedly the Lucas' sense of hardship and loss, effects surely magnified by Mikkelsen's face, famously angular and strangely beautiful.

But if The Hunt is Lucas' story, concerned with his righteous grievance and his lack of recourse in the face of hysteria, the lingering tragedy has to do with children, all of them. As they're being raised up into a community premised on assumptions and lies, you can only feel worried for them.

5

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.