Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Hunt (Denmark 2012) aka"Jagten": Fate is a hunter

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg and not to be confused with the William Dafoe vehicle The Hunter of the same year.

A middle-aged man working in a pre-school in rural Denmark is wrongly accused of child sexual abuse.

The Hunt is definitely a well-made film with strong performances, but the screenplay is psychologically suspect.

Certain behaviour of a pre-schooler doesn't ring true, depicting a child at a very young age with a mindset that pushes her into lies, and the accused despite having a clear affinity with kids handles a delicate event with blundering insensitivity, oddly contrary to the sensitivity he displays with the child in the film's opening scenes. A scene involving the girl's teenaged older brother, which is supposed to provide fodder for an innocent fabrication is so shocking and unreal as to be contrived, and out of character for the brother, who later is shown to have a finer sensibility. The brutal reaction of friends and community is predictable.

Cinematically, there is little to distinguish the effort, apart from idyllic rural tableaux as a counterpoint to the trauma being played out. But again, nothing new.

Vinterberg I think to a certain extent sets up a straw man that makes it easier for our blood to boil more ferociously in response to the treatment meted out to the accused by his friends and the local tight-knit community. Consider that if the innocence of the accused had been revealed only at the end (or not at all), and the audience was placed in the same shoes as friends and community. Perhaps our emotional response would be more problematic and, dare I say, more genuine?

There is something deeper going on, but most won't see it, basically a noir motif - shit happens yes - but there is a sense that fate here is not just capricious but avenging. The killing of a stag by the accused in a hunting trip is essentially - like all hunting for recreation - a vile act against nature and the soul, a grave sin. That just like the stag, fate can single the hunter out - fairly or unfairly. His dead dog killed in response to the charges is shown in the same deathly repose as the stag, with its tongue hanging out of it snout.

Gripping but flawed.