Sunday, May 22, 2016

2016 Cannes Marathon: The Hunt (2012 film)

(Winner of the Vulcan Prize, Ecumenical Jury Prize, & Best Actor Prize to Mads Mikkelsen at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg and written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, Jagten (The Hunt) is the story of a kindergarten teacher who is accused of sexually abusing one of his students as his life unravels. The film is a look into a man whose simple act gets him in trouble all because of a misunderstanding as a small town goes into a mass hysteria over something he didn’t do. Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Alexandra Rapaport, Thomas Bo Larsen, and Annika Wedderkopp. Jagten is a mesmerizing and gripping film from Thomas Vinterberg.

Set in a small Danish town just before and around the Christmas holidays, the film revolves around a kindergarten teacher who is accused of sexual abuse after one of his students made a claim unaware of what she’s done. Immediately, the life of Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) unravels as he was living a good life despite going through a divorce where a simple kiss from a little girl would ruin everything. Especially as the girl is the daughter of his best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) who isn’t sure what is going on as a series of misunderstanding happens and no one is sure what is true. It’s not just Lucas who becomes ostracized but also his teenage son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom) during a visit as he is one of the few who believes his father where he is treated with disdain by people who knew him.

The screenplay by Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm is set in the span of two months where the first act is set in November, the second act in December, and the climatic third on Christmas Eve. Yet, Lucas is a man that everyone knows as he is part of a local hunting society and drinks with the guys. He’s also someone that people could trust as Theo’s daughter Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) likes Lucas a lot as she also likes to play with his dog. Her action which was really just innocent would cause a lot of problems because of these misunderstandings. Especially as Klara would eventually tell the truth but Theo’s wife Agnes (Anne Louise Hassing) isn’t sure if Klara really understand the idea of the truth. There aren’t any villains in the film but there are people who do make some very bad decisions in the film’s second half where they would do things that are very evil where Lucas becomes a victim for all of the wrong reasons.

Vinterberg’s direction is very engaging for not just the simplicity that he maintains for much of the direction but also in its moments of restraint. Shot in rural areas in Denmark including some of its forests and mountains, Vinterberg doesn’t use a lot of wide shots in favor of something that is very intimate in its usage of medium shots and close-ups. Notably as Vinterberg keeps things lively in the way Lucas interacts with the children at the kindergarten building where he does play their games but also knows that he is still an adult. During a scene where Klara is questioned by the kindergarten building’s supervisor Grethe (Susse Wold) and a child psychiatrist named Ole (Bjarne Henriksen), Vinterberg maintains that intimacy but also create a tone that is unsettling where it raises a lot of questions abut the girl and what is happening to her. Though Grethe and Ole aren’t trying to create a bad situation, it’s the way they handle things that would be cause for a lot of what is to come. Even as Lucas has no idea what he’s done where Vinterberg would have the camera follow him with some handheld work but in a restrained fashion.

The film’s second half feature moments that are quite intense where it has elements of violence in not just Marcus lashing out his father’s friends but also in how Marcus is being ostracized. Notably in the third act on Christmas Eve as Lucas is all alone and needs to do shopping but how he is treated from locals to even the market’s manager show some of the darkest aspects of humanity. It’s a moment where it shows how far a lie can do things and push a man to extremes where it would be witnessed by some key characters. Even as it is followed by this climatic moment where Lucas unleashes his anger over what has happened where even Theo is forced to question what is really going on as he is one of those who had ostracized Lucas. The film’s ending doesn’t just play into Lucas’ isolation but also in the fact that he will never shake the lie that ruined him. Overall, Vinterberg creates a haunting yet visceral film about an innocent man’s life being destroyed by a lie.

Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography in the way many of the exteriors look in the day including some scenes set in the autumn and winter along with some interiors where it looks natural with some lights for some of the scenes set at night. Editors Anne Osterud and Janus Billeskov Jansen do brilliant work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some jump-cuts to play into some of the emotional moments in the film. Production designer Torben Stig Nielsen and set decorator Rasmus Balslev-Olesen do fantastic work with the look of Lucas‘ home as well as the kindergarten place that he works at. Costume designer Manon Rasmussen does nice work with the costumes as it’s mostly casual for the look of the characters in the film.

Hair/makeup designer Bjorg Serup does terrific work with the look of Lucas following a beating he would receive in the third act as it play into all of the trouble he has endured. Sound designer Kristian Eidnes Andersen and co-sound editor Thomas Jaeger do superb work with the sound from the way some of the drunken meetings sound early in the film to the quieter yet tense moments in the film such as Klara‘s interrogation scene. The film’s music by Nikolaj Egelund is wonderful as it is very low-key where it only appears in its ending as it is just this plaintive, folk-based piece while other music is played on location.

The film’s amazing cast features some notable small roles from Bjarne Henrikson as the child psychologist Ole, Anne Louise Hassing as Theo’s wife Agnes, Susse Wold as the kindergarten organizer Grethe, and Lars Ranthe as Lucas’ brother Bruun who is one of the few that believes Lucas as he would also be there for Marcus. Lasse Fogelstrom is superb as Lucas’ son teenage Marcus as this kid who is trying to understand what his dad did as he is one of his father’s few defenders where he tries to fight back at even those he knew as a kid. Annika Wedderkopp is fantastic as Klara as a little girl who has no clue of what she did or why as she displays this air of innocence of a girl that has very little understanding of the world. Alexandra Rapaport is brilliant as Lucas’ Swedish girlfriend Nadja who at first doesn’t believe the accusations towards Lucas only to be more confused once she is forced to deal with other parents a she also works with Lucas at the kindergarten.

Thomas Bo Larsen is excellent as Theo as a longtime friend of Lucas who isn’t sure what is going on as he believes his own daughter while also wanting to hear Lucas only to reluctantly ostracize him. Finally, there’s Mads Mikkelsen in an incredible performance as Lucas. It’s a performance that isn’t just full of restraint but also with a sensitivity as it has him being a guy that people could trust and hang out with only to then be ridiculed and ostracized. Yet, Mikkelsen maintains a calm demeanor for much of the film until the third act where he is pushed as well as feeling a sense of rage that has been building up as it is truly one of his defining performances.

Jagten is a phenomenal film from Thomas Vinterberg that features a tremendous performance from Mads Mikkelsen. Featuring a great supporting cast as well as the idea of how a lie can ruin a man’s life, it’s a film that manages to be a lot of things and more as well as display a sense of innocence in a world that is often very cruel. In the end, Jagten is a sensational film from Thomas Vinterberg.

Thomas Vinterberg Films: (The Biggest Heroes) - Dogme #1-Festen - (It’s All About Love) - (Dear Wendy) - (Submarino) - Far from the Madding Crowd (2015 film) - (The Commune)

© thevoid99 2016


Optimistic Existentialist said...

I am a huge fan of Mads Mikkelsen so I need to see this film! Thank you for the review!

thevoid99 said...

You're welcome. See it now. He is incredible in this.

Brittani Burnham said...

Great review! I loved this movie, but I wanted to burn that entire village to the ground by the end of it. I was so angry.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-I was hoping for that as well where Mads would say "you just unleashed something more evil than Satan". Still, I liked what he did at the supermarket. Don't fuck with Mads. He's one of my boys.