Before watching Jagten (English: The Hunt), I had very limited knowledge of what the film’s plot was. Aside from a brief description from IMDb saying it was a drama where a man’s life is turned upside-down by one lie, I was left in complete ignorance as to what was about to occur.
Preferably, I’d like you all to be in this state of unknowing when, and if, you watch the film but since I’m reviewing it I might as well give you a review which, to the best of my abilities, conveys the spectacle which I was about to witness.
Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) plays a local kindergarten teacher in a rural Danish town and, aside from trying to get in contact with his son who lives with his ex-wife, his life is pretty ordinary. After looking out for his best friend’s daughter Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) when her parents are having a spat, Klara kisses him on the lips during play. Lucas quickly tells her it is inappropriate and Klara becomes distraught at the rejection.
Upset and angry with Lucas, as well as being left late at the kindergarten, Klara tells the concerned headmistress Grethe (Susse Wold) that she has seen Lucas’ “rod”, using the memory of a pornographic image that her brother showed her to unwitting effect. Obviously disturbed, Grethe tells Lucas what has occurred in loose terms and begins proceedings to find out what has happened. As things seem to get bleaker for Lucas while Klara maintains her lie; Lucas sees how his close-knit community can quickly turn against him in the most brutish of ways.
Now I must give credit where credit is due to the writer and director Thomas Vinterberg and his co-writer Tobias Lindholm. It takes a lot of confidence and talents to use the topic of paedophilia as the basis of your story, but to use it so imaginatively as well as being sensitive to the issues its presents, is one where plaudits are deserved.
Jagten is such an emotionally charged film which has acting greatness in abundance, the majority of which I must bestow upon its lead actor Mads Mikkelsen. I almost feel joyous at having not Having not seen the only other film he has been in that I have heard of, Casino Royale, as I can see his acting talents from a novice’s perspective.
Now be prepared for what I am about to say as I generally don’t say this about, well, anybody, but here goes. Mikkelsen plays the role of Lucas flawlessly. There I said it. It’s out there. I could not find a single criticism of his performance. Why is that exactly? Well, putting myself in his shoes of being falsely accused of such a heinous act, every action he commits feel how it would have actually occurred.
Nothing feels forced or made to feel out of character, rather Mikkelsen acts calm when initially accused, believing it will all blow over. Then he becomes more agitated, then aggressive at not being believed and being abandoned, and then completely dejected. While I am clearly not an expert on how you would react on being falsely accused of something so vile, the way that I believed every reaction Lucas gave speaks volumes for the acting abilities of Mikkelsen.
And now we must move onto the character I had the most complex feelings towards during this film, that of Klara. Annika Wedderkopp, while nothing special in herself as she just plays what she is, a young child, inavertedly becomes a figure of hatred for the audience as, for one little lie she tells ruins the life of the kindly Lucas.
The delivery of her lie feels so underplayed that, like Grethe, you feel that you didn’t quite hear it. That she didn’t really say it. But she did, and from then on the complexity only builds. As the adults all try to ascertain what happened to Klara, you can see Klara inavertedly being coerced into saying Lucas did abuse her, after initially denying Lucas had shown her anything.
The completely jarring effect of this apparent confession also allows her parents and friends of Lucas Theo (Lars Ranthe) and Agnes (Anne Louise Hassing). Hassing and Ranthe’s acting are sublime, going from loving parents and friends (although prone to spats with one antoher) to complete outrage and hatred towards Lucas. The scenes of friendliness between Lucas, Theo and Grethe becoming scenes of hatred so quickly shows the way companions can turn into adversaries.
Vinterberg handles the film extremely well, letting you see both sides of the predicament as, while supporting Lucas in his innocence, you can also see why the adults begin to shun him as a suspected sexual predator, asking themselves the question: would a child lie, and lie about something so adult and serious?
However it is the ostracism and violence that rises to the top of this film. The way in which Lucas, and later his son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrøm), are treated in the film by former friends and the rest of the community is demonstrable. Being refused service, beaten and terrorised at home, Lucas is left in the wilderness. A social pariah with no apparent redeeming qualities, but it leaves you asking yourself poignant questions.
Having mentioned Fogelstrøm, I must say that the way he portrays the ostracised son is wonderfully done. Having finally been reunited with his father amidst the turmoil going on in Lucas’ life, Fogelstrøm gives great characterisation to how Marcus has to deal with the vitriol, of the town towards him and his innocent father, culminating especially in two heavily charged scenes. It also leaves you wondering what happens to those children of those suspected, or even convicted, or sexual crimes and is it right to denigrate them for someone else’s crime?
To call this film Jagten or, for us English speakers, The Hunt, is a brilliant piece of symbolism by Vinterberg and Lindholm as Lucas and his friends are part of a hunting club, which has ritual from boys turning to men once they receive there hunting license. Like the deer that they hunt, Lucas has become the target of the town, with seemingly everyone looking to take their shot.
The ritual itself of becoming a man is further fraught with symbolism, with the innocence of childhood being swept away by the prejudices and bloodlust of adulthood. The notion that everyone is good is done away by then and all are equally susceptible in lashing out against their former compatriots.
Jagten may not be everyone’s cup of tea, at times being uncomfortable, disturbing and heartrending, but it is one that I would wholly recommend watching. The way in which a community turns against one so rapidly is strangely intriguing to watch and makes you ponder whether you would act one way or another if you knew someone accused of such crimes.
It’s official now; we have reached the halfway point of No-English Moviember, with only three more films to go so I hope you’ve been enjoying these reviews, but if you haven’t read them you can check them out on this link. Thanks for reading and many thanks to The Animation Commendation for suggesting this film. If you haven’t seen his stuff, check out the site by clicking the link.
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