A doting father, unfortunate divorcee, and experienced childminder, Lucas finds the most innocent of sources can shoot the most deadly arrows in The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg’s award-winning 2012 psychological drama.
When Lucas (played excellently by Mads Mikkelsen) falls victim to an unwitting lie told by toddler Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), it sparks the village’s violent descent into hysteria as people take her word over his. The film plays with shattered fraternity, focusing on what lengths humans will go to to defend social values, no matter how immoral they seem to be.
Once Lucas is “outed” as a child abuser, he is quickly vilified. He is shut out of the townsfolk’s lives almost the instant they learn of Klara’s admittance, without a second thought as to the truth of her statement. In this way The Hunt serves as an interesting spin on the “children are sacred” trope; Klara lies but her later admittance that she may have made a mistake is dismissed as denial by her overprotective mother and her daycare supervisor Grethe (Susse Wold).
Even as the lies become more and more unbelievable, none of the adults drop their opposition, not even Lucas’s childhood friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen), who finds himself torn between his daughter’s word, his wife’s protectionism and his own doubts.
Lucas’s son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrøm) also feels the full force of the vigilante justice undertaken by the villagers. Though innocent he is swiftly shunned just for being related to Lucas at all, which forces him to lash out against those threatening his blameless father.
The Hunt asks some very uncomfortable questions – what if someone you respected was “outed” by a child? How would you react? – and painstakingly answers them piece by piece, and results in a disturbing and uncomfortable film. It is undoubtedly difficult to sit through thanks to the foreknowledge of Lucas’s innocence.
Even as the film draws to an end, there is little closure – while the villagers seem to have dropped their spears and lowered their guns a year on, Lucas is still left to wonder when – if ever – he will wake from his nightmare.