Monday, September 9, 2013

The Hunt

By Sati. Monday, September 9, 2013 , , , , , , ,
There is a number of movies that genuinely infuriated me. Sometimes it's because they end up being disappointments when I wanted them to be great. Sometimes it's because they are a waste of my time. But there are actual great films that infuriate me so much, I'm angry just thinking about them weeks, months, years after seeing them. Those are the films that accurately show that the majority of human race is weak, contemptible and genuinely pathetic.

The Hunt shows you there is good in this world - in this film personified by the protagonist Lucas, who is kind, loving, sweet. A guy so very gentle, that his own modesty stands in a way of him fighting back against injustice until he is pushed to the breaking point. Yet even though The Hunt shows you that good, noble people exist, its poignant and brave final scene portrays accurately that the noble and the good always have to fear the shadows of the disgraceful and prejudiced. And it won't ever change.
The Hunt follows a teacher named Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen, in the most powerful performance of the year so far). Lucas is an all around nice guy who has a lot of friends and who is adored by the children in the school. Unfortunately, his best friend's daughter Klara adores him a bit too much. When she gives him a small paper heart Lucas politely gives it back to her, explaining to Klara why it's not appropriate. In childish retaliation Klara tells a lie that leads the townsfolk to completely destroy Lucas's life.

There are many things that make me angry in this story. The fact that I can't find the villain is a big source of frustration. I can't hate Klara - she is 5 years old and she obviously doesn't understand how severe the consequences of her words are. She felt hurt and she said something, something that was planted in her mind by her older brother who irresponsibly - and also not realizing the possible consequences - showed her a glimpse of a porn picture. They are children. How can we be mad at the children?
Fortunately my frustration - and I can't remember the last time I was this frustrated while watching the movie - was unleashed on the adults whom I hated deeply and passionately whenever I saw their actions (with the exception of Klara's father). Children don't know the consequences, adults should. Children don't think what their actions may do to people, adults should.

On the other hand there was an obstacle to fully hating those who jumped to conclusions about Lucas so fast - they cared for the kids. They didn't want anything bad to happen to them. How can it be wrong? And more importantly - how can a person whose young kid's well being is on the line can remain open minded enough to even try and listen to the adult who might have caused them harm?
But what cannot be excused when subject of such severe allegations arises is the incompetence. I can forgive people not wanting to listen to Lucas's side of the story at first. I can forgive Klara's parents who immediately assumed their daughter was telling the truth. What I can't forgive, though, are the employees in the school whose incompetence and blatant stupidity was close to making me physically sick.

That was the most frightening part of the movie for me. How much power such people have. Early in the movie the principal arranges the meeting between psychologist and Klara. Psychologist is suggesting the answers to Klara and he is so blatantly fucking horrible at his job and such a disgrace to his profession I kept fantasizing that I stepped into this movie and bashed his head in the wall.
The principal is another one - without properly investigating the case she assumed Klara was telling the truth and she gathered the parents and talked about Klara's lie not as if it was an allegation - she was presenting it as a fact. Those two people infuriated me so much that if this movie ended with the school catching on fire and them burning alive, it would still be an easy way out.

It's horrifying. Horrifying that people out there do not think what they do to others. How much they can harm the innocent. How irreversible what they are doing can be. The lack of thinking, the lack of empathy and simple human intelligence in those people made me wanna punch the wall. Especially that they jumped to conclusions so quickly when it came to the person they have known for years.
I can't even write about what happens to Lucas's adorable dog. I just can't.

It's rare that I notice something like this but this movie has a perfect title. The people in Lucas's town stalk him, harass him, corner him and wound him - just like they would to an animal during hunting, hoping that it gives up and loses the will to fight.
But these people forgot about one thing decent human beings have - dignity. And Lucas doesn't let go of his dignity for a second during this story. It was so admirable, the peace and solemnity radiating from him while he was going through all of that, holding on to his innocence. Some might have been frustrated with Lucas not fighting back more decisively but I thought it was a reflection of his own good nature. Lucas just assumed that people will come to their senses. How can his friends think he is guilty, they can't do that, can they? They have known him all those years, they must know he didn't do this, don' t they? They must know he couldn't harm anyone? Unfortunately, Lucas was wrong when answering all those questions.

It's very rare that I actually find my legal training useful while watching a movie but The Hunt is an exception. The fundamental rule of the law is to assume someone is innocent until they are proven guilty. Do you know why it's so important? Because it's the most difficult thing to do. Expect people won't judge a person who is suspected of doing a horrible thing. Nobody in Lucas's village was able to look past the accusations (except for his girlfriend and his son)  and that's why, knowing how hard it is to be unbiased, the film's most powerful scene was even more powerful for me.
In what is the finest acted out scene I've seen probably since McQueen's Shame, Lucas gathers all his remaining strength and goes to the church where most of the townsfolk are gathered. Klara's father Theo who was Lucas's best friend before all of this happened is there. Theo remarked early in the movie that it is impossible for Lucas to lie. All you need to do to see the truth is to look into his eyes. And when he does so in the church, he sees the truth.

Now, if you didn't see this movie and only read that description here it may seem naive to you. A proof of man's innocence hiding in his eyes? But it truly is what a proof of innocence is - a person who knows the accused, seeing something that for them is enough of the proof. The police can make their claims, the courts can give verdicts but in the end people will draw their own conclusions and the prejudice will go on unless they have seen the proof of innocence with their own eyes.
The viciousness of the attacks of people who used to be Lucas's friends is so overwhelming you just want to hold him and tell him it will be all right. But it's not going to be because no matter what, people will always wonder whether he was guilty or not, even if Klara's own father believes in Lucas's innocence.

I read a lot of people's reactions about this movie and I'm fairly shocked some expected the twist in the end where it is implied Lucas was guilty. Mikkelsen's beautiful portrayal of this sweet man aside, there is just no way they could do that. Why would Lucas give Klara her paper heart back so gently and decisively? Had he been guilty he would use the opportunity. But most importantly The Hunt is not about guilt or innocence. It's about mob mentality and the horrifying ease with which such witch hunts can occur even in this day and age.
The only reason why I'm not giving the movie more points is because I found some things here unrealistic. As hideous as the allegation was it seemed odd to me not one of Lucas's friends stood by him. It also seemed odd how little the police was involved - the whole thing played as if it was set in Middle Ages with lunatics running around lynching someone, basically only missing the torches.

I also kept wondering why Lucas stayed in this town. Yes, he was very trusting and despite what happened he was able to forgive everyone, but the last scene shows that this whole town is basically the wild and he is like a scared animal, knowing he can be the victim of the hunt at any moment.

Nobody can stand this much fear. And no decent person should ever have to.

The Hunt (Jagten)
(115 min, 2012)
Plot: A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son's custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writers: Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp

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36 comments:

  1. I really liked this film. I saw it in a film festival last year and it was so hard to just keep sitting there. I get what you're saying here, but god I hated that little kid. But I hated the people more. They were even in my best villains list at the end of last year.

    I really like what you said about the scene in the church and that one should be considered innocent until proven guilty. I think so too.

    I seem to have forgotten to include Mikkelsen in my last year's best performances list, which I think will give me a good excuse to do so this year. Thanks for reminding me :) He was phenomenal.

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    1. I thought the film did an admirable job at showing both sides of things but yeah, it was hard not to wish something awful will happen to those who did all of that to Lucas. He was so sweet.

      He really was. That's one of the best performances I've seen in a long time, I think he will easily end up in my top 5 of the year.

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  2. I really want to see this not just because of Mads but the idea that this film could be Thomas Vinterberg's return to form after a period of some mediocre and poor films as he had lost some promise that he had gained with Festen back in 1997 which was the first Dogme 95 film.

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    1. I'm not familiar with his work but this is an extremely well made film. The only problems it has are few glitches with the script.

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  3. Great review! I've been looking forward to this one for awhile. I had the same frustration reading/watching We Need To Talk About Kevin. It sickened me how people treated Eva, as if it was absolutely her fault that Kevin went all Robin Hood on his classmates.

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    1. Thank you! I didn't read the book but it was horrible how people treated her in the film, as if she hasn't been through enough already:/

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  4. Damn, I'm going to have to watch this film now. I've heard a lot about it, mainly due to my new found obsession with Mads from watching him in Hannibal, but it seems as though it's a film I'd get frustrated with too.

    It reminds me a bit of the storyline in Californication where the main character sleeps with a minor without knowing that she is a minor, who in turn decides to destroy what little relationships he has left with the ones he loves due to her manipulation and just because she can really. Ugh. I'm glad someone else gets frustrated with things like this.

    Really great review by the way, I love your reviews. You're opinions on film are so passionate. That's the kind of reviewer I like to see :)

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    1. I share that obsession :) I only saw A Royal Affair from his other films so far, but it's also very good.

      I saw a bit of that, that was really messed up. I mean sure he did sleep with her but he didn't know how old she was and it was consensual.

      Thank you so much! I do tend to rant A LOT on this blog :P

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  5. Great review! I'm glad you finally decided to write it. I hear ya about not giving it a full score, I didn't either, it's not a perfect film but certainly a powerful one. That scene at the church is just oh, so heart-wrenching!! "All you need to do to see the truth is to look into his eyes. And when he does so in the church, he sees the truth." You're right, and that explains the scene afterwards in Lucas' house. I wonder too why Lucas didn't leave but then again that'd imply that he's guilty. The fact that he stays is a tough decision but I feel like he has no option in this case. Plus I think apart from what's happened, he surely loves his small town.

    In any case, it's a terrific performance out of Mikkelsen, no doubt of that!

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    1. Thank you! Yeah I was getting mad whenever I thought about this film, now that I wrote the review I feel a bit better :P

      I wish that he would get some major awards for this one. Everyone thinks he is just playing villains but he is equally impressive playing roles like this one.

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  6. Nice review. I've been wanting to see this for months, and Mikkelsen looks phenomenal. I can't wait to see it! :)

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    1. Thanks! I'm sure you'll like the movie once you have a chance to see it!

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  7. Whoa. Epic review that has elevated this film to must see status, even though the subject matter seems tough on countless levels (especially for me).

    Mob mentality is so prevalent in schools it's ridiculous. We're training them to think for themselves, yet more often then not they strive for blind acceptance from their peers, despite cries of independence. From kids it's bad. Adults? Much, much worse.

    Can't wait to check this one out.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah it's really a heavy film. Especially because of how close to reality it is.

      I think if kids won't learn to think for themselves in early age it will be harder for them to understand how important it is later on in life.

      On the other hand the nature of allegations causes extreme emotions in people who are usually calm, for a very good reason.

      In that quest to protect the kids it's so easy to harm those who did nothing wrong. I think if the people who deal with that sort of situation would be better trained something like the events in the movie could have been avoided. But sadly I bet real life psychologists are not much better from this guy in the movie.

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  8. Good review! Agree Mikkelsen's performance is great. For me, part of what makes The Hunt so powerful is that a witchhunt situation could actually happen for real in our own neighborhood. I guess people need something to hate on and blame.
    I agree it would be more realistic if he left the town, but then, his friends and family are close, and he is stubborn.
    I think men who watch The Hunt might think twice about looking for work at a kintergarden :)

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    1. Absolutely. I think that is the core of the movie - to show that people follow others and how quickly something can escalate.

      Yep, indeed. I mean he was obviously a great teacher, he did nothing wrong and still it happened to him :/

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  9. Great review on a film you clearly feel very passionately about. Not caught it yet but I've only heard good hings about it so I'll be checking it out very soon. It's a very sensitive subject and I think there's a tendency for people to jump to conclusions because how could a sweet young child possibly lie about such things?

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    1. Yeah the film does really good job at showing how it's possible for a kid to lie for childish reasons, I mean it's a child and she doesn't know what she is saying. The film is truly amazing - I think child molesters should get the most severe punishments but this movie horrified me because it shows how a lie births more lies and how easy it would be to convict someone innocent.

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  10. Your passion for this film really seeps through your words!! Good Job! I loved this movie as well. I don't think anyone who watches it can not.

    Even to me, the best part of the whole film is the lack of actual palpable villain. Sure, there are many people who can share the blame. Maybe even Klara but at the same time, each and every one of them is right in their own right, even the Principal. She has to run this school with so many other kids around and there is no reason why Klara would Lie. They infuriated me as well but I can understand their actions. Probably that's the biggest success of the movie.

    LOVED the ending! It's shocking and once again infuriating but ballsy. I am kind of glad it ended on that note.

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    1. Yeah I'm absolutely furious with most of the characters in the movie. I tend to rant A LOT when I'm furious and in addition the movie is great.

      Absolutely, the script here was very strong but I still had some issues with it. But they definitely made it difficult to pinpoint the blame.

      I loved the ending. So haunting and unfortunately, realistic.

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  11. Great review Sati. What makes this movie hit so much harder is the fact that this small community is a perfect personification of how any other community/area would react if they heard the same thing. They would accuse, believe it as fact, and never take anything else as a possible solution or idea. Very messed-up, but very honest.

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    1. Thank you! Exactly - it's horrifyingly universal.

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  12. I only skimmed over this because I want to go into the film fresh, but I'm pleased to see such a positive review from you, Sati. I love Mikkelsen, and this sounds like a terrific film. It seems I will need to be in the right mindset for it though.

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    1. It really is a fantastic movie, it's the best performance from Mads I've seen so far.

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  13. This was a premise that could very easily have been movie of the week fodder. Luckily it was acted and directed so brilliantly. I love when a film can captivate and infuriate at the same time. As of today it is my odds on favorite for winning the upcoming Foreign Oscar.

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    1. I really REALLY hope the movie and Mikkelsen get major award love.

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  14. I need to see this. Heard great things about it

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  15. AWESOME. Powerful. This review. Wow. You're a goddess!

    PS. Putting this on my spill-list (best film blog posts I've read this week, etcetc.) Hope that's fine? :)

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    1. Thank you! :)

      Oh, it's more than fine! :)

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  16. AWAWAWAW. I am in love with this post. You're a goddess. I'm really moved. I think I'm going to catch up on everything you wrote this summer now. You're so damn impressive.

    I love that you can see it from your law education perspective as well - a very interesting POV.

    PS. I'm gonna feature this on my spill-post (impressive film blog posts found this week), is that alright? :)

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    1. Blogger not letting the comments in again? I see people having to write their comments twice few times a week, I hate this portal so much sometimes :/

      Thank you! Most of those are just angry rants, really :)

      Yes that is actually one of the very few instances my studies came in handy :)

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    2. Apparently WordPress and Blogger don't get along so well. Huh. :(

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    3. Yeah I have major problems commenting there, it's like a war of the blogging platforms :)

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  17. Excellent review, one of my favorites of yours. Ever.

    Don't even know where to begin, as I agree with everything you said here. First off, yes, the title. How perfect is that title? Simple but so revealing.

    I also love how you mentioned that the main villain of the film is someone we can't be mad at. She's a child doing childish things. We can't hate her, we can only accept that she doesn't know any better. As we discussed over on my site, it's the townspeople in this film that are the most infuriating, probably because we could easily see something like this happening in real life.

    That church scene was astonishing. So uncomfortable, so real, so devastating.

    Again, great review here. Glad we both really appreciated this film. It deserves a much, much larger audience.

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    1. Wow, thank you so much!

      I loved the title. I can't imagine finding a more fitting word to call this movie.

      The sad part is that I bet things like that happen every day in the world for lots of reasons - people getting so focused on destroying someone's life and everyone following them.

      I really hope a lot of people get to see this movie. It's one of those movies that forces you to think and really stays with you.

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