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Release Date(s)2012 (December 10, 2013)
For my money, Mads Mikkelsen is one of the most interesting and talented actors working today. In this country, he’s best known for playing sophisticated monsters like Dr. Hannibal Lecter on the TV series Hannibal and Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. But abroad, he’s had more opportunity to diversify, working with such filmmakers as Nicolas Winding Refn and Susanne Bier. In Thomas Vinterberg’s powerful, Oscar-nominated drama The Hunt, Mikkelsen delivers what may be his finest performance to date.
Mikkelsen stars as Lucas, a divorced teacher who takes a job in a kindergarten when he’s downsized from his previous school. He’s popular with the kids and close to Klara, the young daughter of his best friend who is having some marital problems. Things are starting to look up for Lucas as he starts dating an attractive co-worker and gets word that his teenage son wants to move in with him. But everything comes crashing down when Klara innocently but incorrectly says something that leads to him being accused of child molestation. As the rumor spreads, Lucas finds himself increasingly ostracized and alone.
It’s crucial to the film’s success that there is no ambiguity about what happened. We know the accusations are false because we see what happened. We also see what’s going on in Klara’s life, so we understand why she might say what she says. The film’s disturbing power lies in the aftermath of those remarks. You can’t unfire a gun and once the accusation is out, there’s no putting it back. Yes, Klara’s statements need to be heard and believed but what’s frightening is how quickly everyone stops listening and simply believes the first thing they heard. It wasn’t lost on me that while I was watching The Hunt, the Woody Allen charges were being replayed in the media. Part of the subtext of many of the condemnations of Woody Allen I read seemed to be that no one is ever falsely accused of pedophilia. That is simply untrue. The Hunt is a gripping reminder that the accusation doesn’t need to be true to cause grievous harm.
Magnolia presents The Hunt in top-form on Blu-ray with a richly detailed high-def image and subtle but extremely effective 5.1 DTS-HD audio. Extras are a bit on the anemic side, although the alternate ending is intriguing. I think Vinterberg chose the correct one, as the actual ending is more open-ended and disturbing. There are also a few deleted scenes, a trailer and a brief featurette that includes interviews (in English) with Vinterberg and Mikkelsen.
The Hunt faces some stiff competition for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in a few weeks but if it wins, it’s well-deserved. This is a truly remarkable film featuring a stellar central performance. I have a feeling Mads Mikkelsen is just getting started. If there’s any justice, he’ll be nominated for an Oscar of his own some day.
- Adam Jahnke