“It’s always assumed that children tell the truth. And unfortunately, very often they do.”
Finding out that a teacher has been accused of what Lucas has been would be such an earth-shattering experience. Imagine what it would be like – a person who has been trusted by so many, and perception of them immediately takes a 180 degree turn, everything they’ve said and done suddenly taking on a whole new meaning, completely different from before.
The subject matter of The Hunt is something that has to be handled so carefully – on one end of the spectrum, it becomes a melodramatic Lifetime movie, at the other, it’s just plain insensitive. Luckily, it avoids most of these trappings to create what starts out as a domestic drama and ends up being a commentary on the state of childhood today, community, and perception.
The psychology of children is definitely the most interesting theme in the film. Beginning as an innocent lie that quickly escalates into something more damaging that continues to snowball, despite Klara denying it and changing her mind about what happened during a single scene. Klara is one of the most complex child characters in recent memory as a result in a very interesting performance from Annika Wedderkopp, because even though she’s incredible, it’s also evident that she was coached through the whole thing, raising questions about awarding child performers. You get the sense that Klara is very observant, like most children, parroting what she sees, and that she is quite exposed to things that aren’t suitable for her. The result is an incredibly intelligent character, as complex as an adult. She makes the audience wonder if she knows what she’s doing or not, even though she’s only 5 or 6 years old, and, to quote another character, “has a vivid imagination”. The decision on the writers part to turn the audience against a child is an incredibly unique one alone, convincing at times that she has set out the destroy her teacher, who looks like the least likely person to have done the horrible acts.
In the role of Lucas, Mads Mikkelsen is nothing short of incredible, in a part that is out of the ordinary in his usual typecasting as through and through villains. He’s a broken man trying to get his life back on track, before it’s changed forever, despite it being denied by the child that accused him of it, her parents continuing to tell her that it did happen. From this angle,The Hunt provokes audiences to consider how fast they leap to conclusions, turning on people in an instant, even with a severe absence of evidence, and at what point does a situation become just the spreading of gossip, adults perpetuating their own interpretation of the events, what they see and hear out of context.
Captured in rich, earthy reds and browns, the usual school drama is turned on its head in The Hunt, making a child an antagonist in this moral minefield of an ‘end of innocence’ film that opens the audiences eyes as to how much more exposed children are in the present day. By the end, it’s unclear who to trust. Lucas’s banishment of sorts results in a great deal of anger, lashing out, doing things he’s never done before, so much so that by the end, it’s feeling as though that the whole story has not been told, that there is perhaps something more sinister at hand here that has been hidden.
The title refers to three types of ‘Hunt’ – the hunt for Lucas, the hunt for truth, and literal hunting of animals. The hunt for truth may have ended, but, as the ending confirms, the hunt for Lucas will never end, for he will carry around the effects of this “innocent little lie” for the rest of his life, and maybe the audience are the hunters.
The Hunt received a limited release in May 2013.
MA (strong themes, sex scenes and nudity), 111 mins.