The Hunt Review
Let's talk about Denmark. What is there to say about this small Northern European nation? A lot actually. The tiny Scandinavian country has given the world so many great painters and artists over the years, but their two great achievements, especially in the modern era of film, have been the Dogma 95 movement. A highly rigorous film credo that was devised by the controversial Lars von Trier, and the less well known Thomas Vinterberg. I mention the Dogma 95 movement although filmmakers set a series of rules set in stone, there was never really a film that followed it completely, even Vinterberg’s Festen, which was arguably the first Dogma 95 film which broke a number of rules. However, its effects can still be felt in films made after Dogma 95's end, especially in the work of Vinterberg and particularly in his 2012 film The Hunt, which Arrow Academy finally brings to Blu-ray.
Set in a small Danish town, kindergarten teacher Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is well liked and respected by the parents and community. However, one of the students at the kindergarten, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) develops a crush on Lucas leading her to kiss him. He lets the little girl down gently, aware of the inappropriate nature these actions can be misconstrued but her feelings are hurt and thus she tells the head of the kindergarten that he exposed himself to her. This lie spreads through the town and Lucas is shunned by the community as everyone turns on him.
This is an incredibly taut drama. The best thing about The Hunt is that it takes its time to set up the situation before adding that awful all-consuming lie. We see Lucas, who has already faced some hardship, losing his wife and job, finally getting his life back on track, he has a good job, people like him, his son wants to live with him and he has a new relationship. It is in those moments that Vinterberg aligns the audience completely with Lucas. However, even when we get into the second half of the film when the lie is told, it progresses with a heartbreaking realism that allows for each character to have their own great moment. There seems to be no manipulation on the part of the filmmakers when it comes down to it, it's just a great film with a shaking plot.
This is helped tremendously by a great secondary cast, each of which do their part as a collective and each has does an excellent job when it is their time to shine. Stand outs are Thomas Bo Larsen and Anne Louise Hassing as Klara's parents. Both do a wonderful job playing parents suffering in the light of these revelations, despite the fact they are false, and both add weight to this issue. Another actor worth mentioning has to be Lasse Fogelstrom as Marcus, Lucas' son, who has some tricky acting to do; angry, frustrated and saddened by his father’s predicament, he lashes out at the accusers, but accomplishes these goals with the skill of an actor three times his age.
The film looks amazing on the Blu-ray disc provided by the good people at Arrow Academy. The high definition digital transfer presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ration makes every shot sing. Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen, has drenched the film with a great use of colour and shadow. These, in high definition, are truly something to behold and add a certain something to the proceedings, either in terms of mood, tone or just as a pretty image. Which are not in any way affected by the inclusion of optional English subtitles that are incredibly clear and easy to read.
The audio is similarly well mastered, either presented in a 5.1 surround sound or 2.0 stereo version. The sound mix to The Hunt is superb, and the excellent clarity on this Blu-ray allows it the time to breathe, whether that be the quiet pauses in an actor's performance, subtle diegetic sounds or a wonderfully melancholic score by Nikolaj Egelund. Both the sound and vision work together to carry this film from just good to great with a masterful understanding of the cinematic language and the resources to make just a great home video with easy to navigate menus and a list of extras that allows a glimpse into the process in the making of film and an alternate ending that makes you think back on the action of the film and the true implications of what Vinterberg is saying.
However, what truly ties this film together is a masterful central performance from Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen. His Lucas carries this film, he is a likeable protagonist and there were times when I was screaming at the screen because of Mikkelsen's perfect portrayal of quiet suffering. Whenever he is on screen, it is Lucas you are drawn to, and there are so many scenes that I could point to as examples but audiences need to discover it for themselves. Just trust me when I say that Mads Mikkelsen's various awards for best actor are well deserved.
All in all, The Hunt is a wonderful film that I recommend everyone see. It is a great drama with a story and emotional journey that is more akin to a rollercoaster with moments of quiet desperation and sadness, to heights of emotional catharsis. It has a great tense atmosphere that is helped tremendously by the actors in the film, especially Mads Mikkelsen. All of that on a well-made package from Arrow Academy makes this a must watch/purchase for anyone with a love of good film.