Mads Mikkelsen plays a serial killer on TV’s Hannibal, but in Thomas Vinterberg’s study of rumors and self-righteous hysteria in a Danish village, he’s a compassionate preschool teacher who falls under wrongful suspicion of child sexual abuse. Adorable little Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) lives under a cloud of anxiety at home, where the verbal scuffles of a troubled marriage makes her shrink in dread. Mikkelsen’s Lucas, a trusted friend of the family, is the most stable and comforting adult in her life, and she clings to him like a lifeline.
When Klara pours out a confused but alarming string of inappropriate phrases she heard spoken by teenage boys, mixed with misguided anger toward Lucas, alarm bells go off. The police investigation is leaked to the public before it’s even begun, then suspicion about Lucas spreads like a virus through the community. Everyone assumes he’s guilty.
Vinterberg works in the same key of personal transgression and raw, inchoate emotion that made his 1998 The Celebration so effective.