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.
Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg
Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp