There is a lot of evil in the world and nothing gets people more upset and mad than sexual abuse of children.Capturing the Friedmans, a 2003 documentary by Andrew Jarecki was a film which looked at a well publicized case of Arnold Friedman, a music and computer teacher who was accused and convicted of distributing child pornography and sexual abuse of his students during the computer classes he held in his basement.That documentary presented us with all the evidence and left the audience drawing a blank as to weather Friedman was guilty.So unreliable is the testimony of small children and so heightened are passions thats it is almost impossible to decide, when it boils down to the word of an adult versus that of a child.
The Hunt gives us a far simpler situation and reveals its agenda at the very end.Lucas( Mads Mikkelsen) is divorced and living alone, he works in a small Danish village kindergarden as a caregiver.He has a teenage son that his ex-wife is determined to keep away from him.He has plenty of friends, his childhood buddies are all there, and they go skinny dipping in a freezing lake and sing bawdy songs together. His best friend is Theo(Thomas Bo Larson) and Lucas dotes on Theo’s 4 year old daughter Elena and walks her to the his kindergarden where she is enrolled.The image of them walking together is terrifying.When you see the film you will understand why.It has a lot to do with Mikkelsen’s performance which is so internalized, its almost unreal.
Soon he stands accused of molesting little Elena.The director Thomas Vinterberg leaves very little doubt about his innocence from the outset but the way the whole community turns against him is scary.All the standard operating procedures kick in and suddenly every child reports being molested by him.I could not help but wonder if Lucas was a cleric would the community have reacted differently? The Hunt is the story of how Lucas deals with the crushing stigma of being branded a paedophile .
The film is set during Christmas and this imparts the film a deep religious undertone.In a sense Lucas becomes a Christ like figure crucified for the sins of humanity.Ironically its very easy to sympathize with those who ostracize Lucas.He has fallen out of grace.To me the most damning question the film raises is that while we go to extraordinary lengths to shield our children from physical abuse, what are we doing about them being bombarded with explicit and implicit sexual images which must play havoc with their young minds. Vinterberg places the cause of Elena’s childish accusations of Lucas on her exposure to some graphic images she sees on an iPad.
The Hunt is beautifully shot with a compelling cast of supporting characters who are all excellent.The pacing of the film is contemplative and we are allowed pause to empathize not just with Lucas but with everybody.Some of the scenes border on melodrama without diminishing the film in any significant way. The film ends on a note that brings its proceedings into sharp focus.There are no easy resolutions here, only grim realizations. Mr. Vinterberg skates on thin ice with ease and fluidity.
When I was growing up it was normal for friends and relatives to cuddle small children lovingly, sometimes to the acute annoyance of the kids.Now in any social gathering I find people talking to children at an arms length, sometimes tentatively reaching out to ruffle their hair.I have resisted the temptation to express my love towards a child many times.Watching The Hunt I could not help but wonder if the new rules of engagement with children are very flawed and detrimental to their well being when they constantly live in dangerous proximity of sexual images.This film is set in Denmark, Scandinavia and I could not help but see Lucas persecution in conjugation with their ridiculous laws which prevent parents to dole out some corporal punishment or verbal admonitions as they deem fit.The greatest lesson this very thought provoking film offers is that sometimes situations need wisdom and prudence and not rules and standard operating procedures.
Categories: World Cinema