We have all heard of the term ” a witch hunt” but maybe few have experienced it or know anyone who has been the target of one. In The Hunt we get an example of how horrible a witch hunt can be and how devastating it is for almost everyone involved. Mads Mikkelsen plays Lucas. He lives in a small town in Denmark, is very well liked and known to everyone. He lived there all his life and due to the high school being shutdown, Lucas ends up helping and teaching at the local Kindergarten. His whole life starts getting upended when one of the students in the school brings up the possibility that Lucas sexually assaulted her.
The Hunt is not about whether Lucas did that or not. It is clear that he did not. She did not even mean to harm him, she had no clue how serious her comments are and what their impact would be. She is 6 after all and she was just mad at Lucas whom she genuinely likes and is her father’s best friend. What the movie does is show how one sentence from a 6-year old that is taken very seriously by her teacher coupled with group-think and the tendency to judge before any investigation, would destroy the life of a decent man. Nothing matters anymore, not that Lucas is the childhood friend of these people, not his place in this small society or his track record of being a well respected citizen. I will not spell out how it all ends up but really, there is very little doubt that Lucas’ life will ever be the same.
The film looks great with events happening around November-December. So we get a lot of the lovely Danish country side, fall colors and Christmas snow. All that contrasts with the bleak prospects that Lucas is facing. Mikkelsen plays Lucas as a man who loves the town he grew up in and the traditions he holds dear. He wants his son to grow up here and will not give up and just leave town. It’s a great performance where he displays strength, affection and a resilience to stand up for himself. The script is tight and not overly melodramatic. The direction is solid and subtle. It simply tells the story as it possibly could happen and we end up with a haunting and memorable film that is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.