Forget The Master. This year’s cinematic masterpiece hails not from the sunny climes of California but from Denmark, whose bleak woods and claustrophobic villages provide the setting for Thomas Vinterberg’s magnificently accomplished tale of a man falsely accused of paedophilia.
Mads Mikkelsen plays Lucas, the nursery teacher whose life is turned upside down when Klara, a nursery pupil and daughter of his best friend, concocts a story that implicates Lucas in sexual abuse. What follows is a deeply disturbing examination of human behaviour at its least rational, as friends, colleagues and strangers turn brutally against Lucas on the basis of little to no evidence. As this witch-hunt unfolds, screenwriters Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm take care not to preach: rather than delineating goodies and baddies they hand responsibility to the viewer, who is forced to confront an ambiguous moral landscape. Such emotional investment results in an often painful but ultimately rewarding cinematic experience.
Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s gorgeous cinematography bathes The Hunt in an appropriately icy chill; particularly striking are the autumn browns of the hunting scenes which provide the film’s title with its dual meaning. Equally laudable are the supporting cast whose naturalistic performances render the film’s twisted storyline all too believable. At the heart of it all is Mikkelsen, whose turn as Lucas is at once compelling and understated, fully deserving of his Best Actor prize at Cannes. See The Hunt and expect it to stay with you till long after the credits roll to a close.