Consider first the setting. It may be quiet and idyllic, but merry laughter and droll humor open the scene. A group of middle-aged men are clowning around by the lake. They are old friends of The Hunt’s central character, Lucas — bespectacled 42 year old ex-professor, recently divorced, and too old to be waddling like a toddler in the water.
But the time is almost Christmas in this unknown Danish village and everyone is having a good time in yet another get-together. Friends have known each other for years, people know people on a first name basis, many have lived here for generations and Lucas, is just another face in this jolly, close-knit community — mellow, respected and well-liked.
We are told that Lucas (played with artful and refined precision by Mads Mikkelsen) has woes that come with contemporary, adult life. Living alone and seeking custody of teenage son Marcus (newcomer Lasse Fogelstrøm), he is an ordinary man trying to rebuild from ground up as a kindergarten teacher. Immediately you can see that he is kind and caring because Lucas walks young Klara home, and chats with her father, also his best friend, Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen). The two men share lasagna while fussing over pet dogs and hunting rifles. You acknowledge that Lucas has earned his place in this neighborhood and relationships are in complete accord.
Then the maiming of his middle-class existence begins.
Klara develops a schoolgirl crush on Lucas, and puerile gestures are sensibly rebuffed. Nothing unpredictable or startling at this point. You have heard of such awkward incidents before. But Lucas is then accused of something he did not commit because Klara said something to avenge an earlier rejection — here is where The Hunt succeeds with penetrating insights into the human condition. Soon after she causes harm, Klara attempts to recant the false accusation without success. By using this narrative technique, writer-director Thomas Vinterberg absolves young Klara from absolute blame, and sets the stage for unreasonable complications. With the realization that both Lucas and Klara, are victims of a larger social phenomenon, watching the film from there on out is an unforgettable and riveting experience.
It is natural to assume The Hunt simply alludes to the concept of Witch Hunt, and concerns itself with dramatizing an innocent man on the wrong end of false allegations. But if that were so — the brilliant scene where Klara was interviewed — would not have alarmed as much with disturbing methodology. Ole the counselor, ushered in from an unknown organization is scruffy and slightly unkempt. Characteristically unlikable, he wears an implicit stereotype on his face and contaminates Klara’s testimony by coaxing with a few hints, “Do you remember, if something white came out?”
She stares blankly, yet revulsion grows and collective hysteria spreads — allowing The Hunt to unveil itself as a carefully executed masterpiece. The clues match only because suggestive prompts are pushing the limits of reality. The narrative’s strategy embeds observer-effect with great accuracy — into one’s expectations of Klara, and her reaction in return. In doing so, Vinterberg denies us simple solutions in which adults are perceptive enough to decipher the truth.
The canvas is visually precise; casting is pitch-perfect (especially that of Annika Wedderkopp in her excellent portrayal of Klara) and the script is cautiously penned. Based on transcripts of police interrogations conducted on suspected pedophiles in Denmark, the US and other European countries — Vinterberg investigates cause-effect with chilling authenticity.
There is no doubt that The Hunt is antithesis to Festen (The Celebration), an earlier work depicting the same subject matter. But this film does not involve itself with controversial material for the sake of empty gestures. Relentless and intense plot is enriched by characters reacting with protective instincts that come naturally simply because they care for one another. We enter the internal worlds of Lucas, Theo, Marcus and Klara, and observe the impact of rotten dynamic unfolding before our very eyes. This forces us — spectators with an omniscient view to sit-up and question judgment using rational exactitude.
Short analysis of the ending >>
The Hunt is a superb, penetrating study of human agency and ultimately, some mysteries remain unknowable. There are narratives attempting to interpret the final scene, and who the shooter really is. (This person may even be the same culprit who killed Fanny.) Is it Klara’s older brother, who has demonstrated protectiveness over her? Perhaps a disgruntled retail assistant from the grocery store? Maybe a figment of Lucas’s anxious imagination from knowing life can easily cast him from the status of a hunter, to that of the hunted?
These questions continue to linger because the film’s technical finish is open-form and resists finite closure. The image of an unknown rifleman, indistinct and in hiding is a conveyor of figurative conclusions — identifying disturbing attitudes as opposed to that of identifiable man. In doing so, Vinterberg employs artistic device to suggest that people may seem outwardly placid, but remain violent and embittered mentally.
Just as it is with real life, some hostility can’t be neutralized and a malevolent presence continues to loom over the horizon, willing to perpetuate an abyss of moral panic.
What do you think? Do you have a different theory on Jagten’s ending?
LANGUAGE IN DANISH, ENGLISH & POLISH
RECOMMENDED ARTICLE: WHO WAS ABUSED?