Community Ostracizes Sheepish Man
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen
Review written by Robert D. Patrick
Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen’s square jaw and esoteric glare provide the perfect bone structure for playing amoral, unsettling figures with blood stamped fingers. The Copenhagen born thespian has played heavies in movies like Casino Royale and Pusher. In one of the actor’s best films, Valhalla Rising, he plays a enigmatic warrior with the brawn of a demigod. Still, most of the English speaking population know him as the incisor flashing Hannibal Lecter on NBC’s show of the same name.
In The Hunt, Mads Mikkelsen plays Lucas, the most sympathetic, emotionally eviscerated, and tragic entity of all his films. He is a sheepish, ah-shucks kind of kindergarten teacher that still gets noogies from his pals. Mikkelsen plays his character like a dove with its wing clipped.
One day, while teaching his class, Lucas receives an innocent advance from his student, five-year-old Klara. When Lucas admonishes the gesture, Klara, in an impulsive fury, suggests, to the personnel at the school she attends, that she was touched by Lucas. This, naturally, sets off an investigation into the merits of the child’s statement, ruining Lucas’ life.
The Hunt’s script is a dodgy, malformed foray into a taboo subject that should be dealt with in a deft manner – or not at all. Thomas Vinterberg, the director of the film, elects to tell a story that concentrates on a small girl lying about abuse. Is this really something that you want to hang a dramatic hat on?
And why does this plot even exist? So a dog can be killed? So Mads Mikkelsen can headbutt a butcher in a supermarket and look like a bad ass hellbent on redemption? If this isn’t exploitative, I don’t know what is. The film may have its heart in the right place, we must understand, but by illustrating that cursory judgments are violence you cant paint with broad strokes yourself. Witch hunts are arcane and brutally unsound. But at the same time, why exploit a child’s word to demonstrate this? Even when meaning well, if clumsy, your ineptitude can turn to endangerment – and that’s what the filmmakers have done in this particular instance. Questioning a child’s word over something this vile and repugnant should never be the centerpiece of a film.
Mads Mikkelsen’s performance is great, there is no doubt, but the film itself is a messy, scatter shot attempt at exploring the barbed parts of humanity’s attempt at preservation. There is some heavy dialogue in the film, and some serious themes, but is it worth showing a child lie over sexual abuse in such lurid ways? Probably not.