This afternoon BIFF gave us what is bound to be a controversial film at Liberty Theater, The Hunt.
In a role that garnered him the Best Actor Prize at Cannes Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, The Door, tv’s Hannibal) plays Lucas a friendly daycare worker. The kids he looks after and the town love and respect him. He’s at home there and he is one of them. He’s trying to sort things out with his ex-wife so he can see his son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom) more often, he has a romance beginning to blossom with Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport), and he and his best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) are nigh inseparable.
The kids even interact with him outside of the daycare, especially Theo’s adorable daughter Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) who has taken a fancy to Lucas’ dog Fanny, and eventually him, making him a small gift. In a completely unnerving moment, while Lucas is playing dead, she throws herself at him, kissing him full on the lips.
When he tries to speak to her about it, explaining why it was wrong to do that, and explaining that kind of thing is only for mommies and daddies she denies ever giving him the gift and walks away…
That’s far from the end of it though, when Grethe (Susse Wold), the administrator talks with Klara and she suggests that perhaps Lucas did something wrong.
Within moments the town, his friends, co-workers, shop keepers have turned on him, rushing to judgment. Their refrain being why would a child lie about something like that?!
His life is ripped apart, there is nothing for him, he becomes almost a recluse by the time Marcus arrives to stand by him.
Everyone rushes to protect the children, and then more come forward telling lewd tales as well! Yet, we the viewer are well aware of Lucas’ innocence, and that he truly did nothing wrong.
But no one, not even those claiming to be his friends (except for a loyal one or two) or even his best friend, are willing to listen to Lucas’ side of the story. In the eyes of the village he’s guilty, and he pays the price, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Mikkelsen’s bravura performance in the church scene on Christmas Eve is heartbreaking and its infuriating seeing the way the town treats him even in church.
Klara, to her credit, tries a couple of times to explain that she never meant this to happen, that she just said something stupid. At that point the indignant fire is blazing so high that they tell her she’s just blocking things now, it did happen, she’s just blocking it.
Annika is simply adorable, and even after the things she says, she is still an innocent in all of this, she doesn’t understand the impact of her actions, she was simply hurt by Lucas’ perceived rejection of her.
Then as the final scenes unfold we learn that no matter what the outcome, no matter what the truth really is, his crime will always be with him, and no one will truly forget it.
This was a fantastic choice on the part of the festival, and was an incredibly powerful film. So much so that I didn’t stay for my next screening, I had to get out and process it.
If you hear of this one coming to town, or the opportunity arises to see it… check it out. It’s well worth your time.
And finally the festival ends tonight with two final screenings I’m attending… this one flew by quick… but perhaps, seat A8 will be waiting for me next year.
I hope so.