Tomas Vinterberg, Denmark 2012
Language: Danish – Dutch subtitles
A lot of good choices are made in Jagten, but the best of all was to invite Mads Mikkelsen to play the lead role.
Mikkelsen plays kindergarten teacher Lucas – a quiet, intelligent and rational person. Not the wildest of the group of friends with whom he regularly goes deer hunting, but he’s well accepted and respected. Until Klara, his best friend Theo’s angel-faced daughter, accuses him of sexually abusing her.
Director Thomas Vinterberg leaves you in no doubt that the accusation is a lie. We see how it’s made up, and there’s never any suggestion that anything is wrong with Lucas. Jagten was never intended to be a thriller, but instead it’s a real-life drama in which a close-knit group of friends falls apart. Not out of anger, but just because of that huge lie that can’t be disproved.
Because that’s what Lucas is faced with. He tries to explain to everyone that nothing happened, but nobody wants to listen. That makes the tension much stronger, and much deeper, than in a thriller. You share the pain of the innocent Lucas, and you feel just as helpless as he does.
That’s exactly why Mikkelsen is such a good choice. The tall actor, who played a blood thirsty Norse warrior in Valhalla Rising (2009), can’t benefit from his physical powers in Jagten. So what can he do? Attack his friends?
Vinterberg, who made an earlier film about child abuse with Festen (The Celebration, 1998), also made some other good decisions. For example by staying clear of police and the legal system. That means we keep a close focus on Lucas, who has nobody else to hide behind.
The fact that every step in Jagten is totally credible, together with the roles played by Mikkelsen and the rest of the cast, is also a result of the intelligent script written by Vinterberg together with Tobias Lindholm. The pair have worked together before in the equally gripping Submarino (2010). But Lindholm has also made his mark by writing half of the episodes for the second season of the hit TV series Borgen.
The only decision in Jagten that wasn’t so successful is the title. Jagten, or in most non Danish cinemas The Hunt, sounds very dynamic but is more suited to a thriller. And not to this movie, in which Lucas isn’t so much hunted as slowly but surely rejected by his group of friends. If only he was hunted, then he’d be able to defend himself. But now his ordeal is even more unbearable. (Source: Gerhard Busch, cinema.nl).