The Hunt – Jagten – Review – Stars Mads Mikkelsen

The Hunt – Jagten – Review by Kernel Andrew Brusentsev

When I say that this movie review leaves me completely unsettled I am not trying to get you, the reader, to sympathise with me at all. The Hunt, or Jagten in its native Danish language, is just that. I first encountered Vinterberg when he made his glorious movie Festen which was my first experience really of Danish cinema and I jumped at the chance of seeing Mikkelsen in anything he is a superbly gifted, versatile and nuanced performer.

The Hunt - Jagten - Review - Stars Mads Mikkelsen
The Hunt – Jagten – Review – Stars Mads Mikkelsen

This theme perhaps done in the US would have been dolloped with massive brush strokes and given the popcorn razzle dazzle or due to its theme never even been green lit. But Tobias Lindholm who wrote the screenplay gives as a screenplay master class and enough breathing room in dialogue for actors to really show us their abilities to capture tense emotion. Tense is exactly what this movie can be summed up as.

Mads Mikkelsen plays Lucas, an out of work teacher who due to his school’s former closure, is working at a kindergarten.  He is loved by the children and is gifted in his role. He is recently divorced, has a young son and is a much loved and respected member of his community. Lucas is very much a part of that community and is relied upon and respected by all.

The Hunt - Jagten - Review - Stars Mads Mikkelsen
The Hunt – Jagten – Review – Stars Mads Mikkelsen

The community is small and close knit, their lives constantly intersect. Their children go to the same school; they hunt together and share meals and life moments as a community. This seemingly idyllic and peaceful life is completely shattered when Lucas is accused of one of the worst crimes imaginable, that of the assault on a young child. From there the situation grows rapidly and quickly out of control.

The Hunt (perfectly named) is an unflinching look at group and herd hysteria, what happens when suspicion and speculation cloaks this small Danish town in some bizarre witch hunt mentality. We see through the eyes of Lucas struggling with the enormity of the accusation, an accusation of something that we know he did not do. This treatment could spiral out of control as I believe it would in the hands of a lesser director but Vinterberg brilliantly steers this to a portrayal of individuals, family and community and asks us the question, what do all of these things mean and how do they interplay with one another? Are each of these brought closer or destroyed in the chaos that swirls around them?

The Hunt - Jagten - Review - Stars Mads Mikkelsen
The Hunt – Jagten – Review – Stars Mads Mikkelsen

Mikkelsen’ s performance is nothing short of brilliant, I have enjoyed his performances in Casino Royale, A Royal Affair, Exit, Valhalla Rising and After The Wedding but this is for me is his best performance yet. He is not only entirely convincing and plausible in his role as a just man accused by those he loves of the most monstrous of crimes, but it is nearly what he doesn’t say when interacting that is so thoroughly brilliant. A scene in a supermarket is one of the most gripping scenes I have seen in decades. The penultimate event at Christmas Eve church service had me literally squirming in my seat.

In most movies I at some point have my attention waver; quite literally with this one I forgot that I didn’t live in this little village community, it is spellbinding and emotionally harrowing.  The cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Cristensen is simply incredible and performances by all are excellent. Special acting highlights by the young girl Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) who is astonishing for a young actress in her depth and range, her father Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Lucas’s best friend is also a highlight.

The Hunt - Jagten - Review - Stars Mads Mikkelsen
The Hunt – Jagten – Review – Stars Mads Mikkelsen

Most of you will know Mikkelsen as the Bond villain in Casino Royale, or as the latest Hannibal Lecter in the TV show Hannibal, if they are all he is known for after this movie it would be a cinematic crime.

I don’t give perfect scores but I am sorely tempted 9.7/10