Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

Blu-ray: ‘The Hunt’

Thomas Vinterberg not only spearheaded the Dogme 95 movement with Lars von Trier, he made people pay attention to it with his 1998 feature The Celebration (aka Festen), a searing family drama of raw emotion, primal rage, and healing solidarity strewn with dark humor and discomforting situations. The Hunt is not bound to the self-imposed restrictions of the Dogme movement but otherwise it returns to the same intensity of volatile emotions and social transgressions. It’s uncompromising and uncomfortable, a film that had me knotted up in anxiety yet unable to turn away, and it’s Vinterberg’s best film since The Celebration.

Mads Mikkelsen stars as Lucas, a dedicated teaching assistant at a pre-school in a small town in Denmark, and Annika Wedderkopp is Klara, the pre-school-age girl who adores this gentle man, a family friend whose warm presence is an escape from the tension at home. In a moment of childish pique after he admonishes her for kissing him on the lips (“That’s reserved for Mom and Dad,” he insists), she spits out some angry comments mixed with sexually-suggestive phrases overheard from her brother and his porn-obsessed buddies. She clearly has no idea what these words actually mean and there is no malicious intent, merely a child blowing off steam, but the ambiguous comments quite rightly lead to an investigation of possible child sexual abuse.

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Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Film Reviews

‘The Hunt’: Mads Mikkelsen Is the Prey

Mads Mikkelsen as object of scorn

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.

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