Directed by Danish film-maker Thomas Vinterberg who made his name in 1998 with Festen (The Celebration). But in his outstanding new film, The Hunt, Vinterberg has chosen to revisit Festen. Back in 1999, a Danish child psychologist visited him with a proposal for a movie taking a radically different approach to the problems at the centre of the film. But Vinterberg was apparently attempting to escape the oppressive corner he'd driven himself into and set aside the material his visitor had given him. A decade later a depressed Vinterberg had cause to consult this same psychologist and before doing so took a look at the file he'd left. So impressed was he that he decided to make this his next project.
Like Festen, The Hunt was scripted by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm. It is set in idyllic rural Denmark, in a small tight-knit, lower middle-class community, rather than a haut-bourgeois family, but child abuse and the effect of its revelation is still the key issue. But in this case the alleged perpetrator is shown from the start to be innocent. This creates suspense by inviting observers to examine the evidence drawn on by the defenders of the accuser and the accused. Vinterberg eschews such ambiguity. His embattled hero, Lucas, Mads Mikkelsen, he is perhaps my favorite international actor and certainly Denmark’s best. Lucas is a victim both of something awry in complacent Danish society (in this it resembles and echoes Michael Haneke's “The White Ribbon” and the dangerous little lies told by an innocent child.
Lucas, the decent man marginalized by judgmental burocratic society, is transformed into an object, a threat to the community, someone to be ganged up against, a dangerous figure who helps those around him discover a new sense of angry unity. Meanwhile, the child who has caused it all stands uncomprehendingly by, passing on to other things and other stories. Eventually the movie comes to a climax during a Christmas Eve service in the local church, where the whole community is confronted by Lucas and they are forced to confront themselves. The result is immensely powerful in its invocation of the true meaning of Christian charity and its symbolism.
Mads Mikkelsen in recent years he's played the most frightening of Bond's enemies (Le Chiffre, the villain with bleeding eyes in Casino Royale); Stravinsky in Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky; a reckless Resistance leader in Nazi-occupied Denmark in Flame and Citron; a petty Copenhagen criminal in the first two parts of the Pusher trilogy; a charismatic 18th-century physician in A Royal Affair; a medieval prisoner of Norse warriors in Valhalla Rising.