This is my review of The Hunt (Jagten) [DVD].
In yet another subtle and well-acted Danish film, we see how Lucas, the only male assistant to provide a bit of rough and tumble in a nursery school, finds himself sacked, charged by the police and a pariah in his tight-knit community when a normally truthful child appears to confide to the head teacher that Lucas has sexually abused her. From the outset we are given clues as to other events in the child’s life which might be affecting her actions, but which cannot be known to those investigating the issue. Through a series of all too believably blundering attempts to “do the right thing”, Lucas is condemned from the outset, wild rumours multiply as people are carried away by “groupthink” to turn against him.
The film skilfully points the finger at others who might be letting Lucas carry the blame for their own misdeeds, and even arouses our own occasional doubts as to his innocence. However, for the most past we feel outrage on his behalf, and a helpless sense of his compounded fate. All the main characters display some depth and changes in their emotions – in the case of Lucas, his natural gentleness and passivity giving way to bursts of retaliation.
The drama is set against a background of the deer hunts which bind the men together in a macho culture which may of course brutally cast out someone who seems to have broken a taboo, and the availability of guns adds a continual underlying threat of violence or tragedy. The film has the entertaining knack of following what seems like a happy event with a sudden twist back into suffering for the unfortunate Lucas.
Although the prejudice and hysteria in the community may seem a little exaggerated, the ending does not baldly “spell everything out” but leaves areas of ambiguity to provide food for thought. What should you do in a delicate situation which you cannot ignore but in which no action can be taken without damaging either the potential victim or the possible perpetrator, perhaps irrevocably? How can adults communicate effectively with confused children who may wish both to please them and conceal things from them, and also lack the language to express their feelings? How often do we make judgements without knowing the full facts, or even realising that this is the case?
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