The Hunt (Jagten) [2012] directed by Thomas Vinterberg is about Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) who works at a kindergarten. A lie from one of his students, Klara, leads to false accusations of sexual abuse and Lucas is labeled a pedophile by the community.

A veritable witch hunt; The title “The Hunt” refers both to the ceremonial rite of passage hunting event that occurs within the community where the story takes place but also to a ‘witch hunt’, where an innocent man is accused of a terrible deed with no evidence against him other than the word of the girl and the statement that “Children don’t lie.” The story on some level serves as a microcosm for other ‘witch hunts’ throughout history such as the Salem witch trials, or the red scare. The film goes to great depths when exploring the dangers of herd mentality, exaggeration, and even the idolization of children and the human tendency to blindly believe the bad over the good, or to believe the first side of an issue that they hear first in the face of opposition. There are many complex themes explored within The Hunt and all of them are handled perfectly.

Every single performance in this film is amazing; Mads Mikkelsen, one of the finest actors of his generations, arguably of any generation, is in top form giving perhaps his best performance to date. This role cemented him as one of the few actors that I will watch anything they are in. Unfortunately, he’s been caught up in the Hollywood blockbuster machine a bit with the likes of Doctor Strange and Rogue One which are a waste of his talent, but that hasn’t precluded him making much more interesting film simultaneously in other countries. The entire supporting cast, including the child actors are also incredible. The Hunt contains some of the best child performances you’re likely to see. Klara is thankfully a much deeper and more complicated character than what could have been with the same premise. The young girl who falsely accuses a good man of being a pedophile and ruins his life sounds like a character that would in theory be easy to utterly despise, but the film doesn’t paint her so simply. Her motivations for telling this lie are as complex as her feelings following it. Her inner struggle with the confusion and guilt that follow this lie are portrayed beautifully by actress Annika Wedderkopp who was only 7 years old at the time.

This is just about as perfect as a film can get; The incredibly restrained, yet powerful direction comes from Thomas Vinterberg, one of the co-founders of the Dogme95 manifesto and the cinematic vow of chastity along with fellow filmmaker Lars von Trier. The Hunt was not made under the Dogme95 vow of chastity, but I believe the impact of its influence is still visible in this film.

The Hunt is a masterpiece of filmmaking.
I count it among the greatest films ever made.

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The Hunt
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