Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrom, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hassing, Lars Ranthe, Alexandra Rapaport
Written by: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm
Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content including a graphic image, violence and language
Language: Danish with English subtitles
Running Time: 110
Date: 07/12/2013

The Hunt (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Hunting for an Oscar

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Haling from Denmark and directed by Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration), The Hunt seems to me one of those movies created for the purpose of being officially approved for export and submitted to the Academy for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. In other words, it's heavy on issues and light on artistry, and generally pretty disposable once awards season is over. Perhaps even worse, The Hunt starts off with great promise before it fails.

Mads Mikkelsen stars as Lucas, a kindergarten teacher who is divorced and lonely and working the only job he can get. The children love him, though, especially a little girl named Klara (Annika Wedderkopp). She tries to kiss him during a playroom romp, and the shocked Lucas gently rebuffs her. Later, unable to understand or articulate the hurt she feels, and drawing upon some unsavory influences from her older brother, she hints that Lucas has done some inappropriate things (she mentions his penis).

The scary part is that, though the audience is privy to the origin of this accusation, there's no conceivable way it can ever be properly traced. Lucas's innocence can never be entirely proven through a simple explanation. Everything relies on Klara, but she doesn't fully understand what has happened to her and what she's done. This puts Lucas in an absolutely terrifying position.

From there, the adults in his life, fellow teachers, friends, etc., begin to cast him out, treating him with anger and contempt, even without proof. Their only evidence is a coerced confession from Klara, and the fact that "children don't lie." Unfortunately, after the intelligent setup, the film doesn't convincingly portray the drastic, hysterical behavior that follows. It casts a stern, disapproving gaze on things, and the genuinely messed-up, conflicted, confused emotions coming from every corner are effectively labeled and shelved. It's too simplistic.

What irritated me further was the metaphor of hunting, which is meant to tie in with Lucas's persecution as a child molester, but doesn't really. It's very clumsy and obvious. But that's nothing compared to the ridiculous ending, which -- I hope I won't give anything away -- wipes the slate clean and makes everything just peachy. It's not so easy to completely eradicate the emotions that come up during something like this, nor to restore the trust that's lost.

So we have a rather half-baked movie, with an incendiary idea and a brilliant setup, but a weak and irresponsible follow-through. However, no one seems to care and, like a summer blockbuster raking in the millions, The Hunt is doing its job, getting all kinds of award nominations and Oscar buzz. But I doubt it will be remembered much past the season.

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