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The Hunt

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Annual Academy Awards

Mads Mikkelsen has an incredible presence on-screen, and no matter what language his work is in, he’s always extremely interesting to watch. Among the more prominent of his roles these past few years has been a James Bond villain in 2006’s “Casino Royale”, a historical German doctor in one of last year’s nominees for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award(the Danish entry, “A Royal Affair”…reviewed here on this blog, of course), plus he’s our most recent Hannibal Lecter, on the NBC television series, Hannibal. Mads is very deliberate in his movements and subtle in his gestures, and his laid-back performance approach is uncannily fascinating to observe. I very much enjoyed “A Royal Affair”, but I mentioned in my review how it was more or less stolen by the actor Mikkel Folsgaard as King Christian. This year , I love Mr. Mikkelsen in the Danish nominee “The Hunt”. The film…not so much. The subject matter is riveting—but the execution leaves a bit to be desired.

Lucas(Mr. Mikkelson)is a middle-aged divorcee, living in a small, tight-knit Danish community. He has a teenage son that lives with his ex-wife, but could possibly move in with Lucas soon. Plus, Lucas has slowly pieced his ruptured life back together by working at a town kindergarten and staying close to his many male hunting friends. Lucas is even on the verge of beginning a new relationship. But then—nothing happening causes a huge upheaval. What I mean by that is, due to a highly unfortunate misinterpretation, Lucas is accused of molesting a child at the school he is employed at. To make matters even more disturbing, it involves the young daughter of his very best friend. It stems mostly from one innocent comment, and a number of benevolent strolls. Of course, Lucas’s life is rapidly turned upside down, as he loses his job, his friends, the planned custody of his son, and his new relationship is in jeopardy too. Before long, things begin to take a violent turn, as well.

Director(and Dogme 95 movement originator)Thomas Vinterberg is an expert at heightening the tension in a scene, in ways both subtle and broad. “The Hunt” is a perfectly-paced and beautifully acted motion picture. Besides the work of Mr. Mikkelson, I also admired the performances of Alexandra Rapaport as Nadja(Lucas’ lady friend and co-worker)and Thomas Bo Larsen as best buddy, Theo. But unfortunately the film, which at times strongly suggests Franz Kafka’s “The Trial”, devolves into pat situations as well as a series of highly unlikely encounters and resolutions. And it’s a shame, because so much of the movie works well early on. Also, the hunting metaphors in the finished product are often oversold—the final one especially being too hasty and heavy-handed. It’s quite clear from early on, that we are really not being given an option as to Lucas’ guilt or innocence, and ultimately that weakens the denouement overall. So, then it just becomes another in an endless series of portraits of the “trials of Job”. And I think director and co-screenwriter Mr. Vinterberg is far too experienced to be excused for such overt devices.     Grade:  B-

next review up:  “The Wolf of Wall Street”

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