Mads Mikklesen sets out his stall for Best Actor Oscar with his portrayal of Lucas, a lonely but loving kindergarten teacher in the middle of a custody battle with his recent ex-wife. When a very young girl in his class - who also happens to be the daughter of his best friend – develops a harmless crush on him, Lucas gently rebuffs her. In an act of innocent childish retaliation, the young girl accuses Lucas of some indecent conduct. From this tiny spark, Lucas can do nothing but watch as his entire life goes up in smoke as his friends, family and community quickly turn on him.
Brilliantly powerful and horribly topical, this movie deals with the modern-day witch-hunt otherwise known as the accusation of paedophilia, not to mention the hugely destructive nature of rumours. Lucas is entirely innocent, but that has no bearing on those in his small town where everybody knows everybody; his guilt is a foregone conclusion. It could be seen as a microcosm for the public perception of those celebrities who have been accused of something horrible, and before their guilt has been confirmed - or even after their innocence has been proven - the accusation will follow them around for the rest of their lives.
A minimum of fuss in terms of camerawork and score allows the acting to shine through, and if Mads Mikklesen isn’t nominated for his performance it would be a huge upset. Best known for his evil characters - particularly the lead villain in Casino Royale - Mikklesen’s Lucas is a hugely likeable man, trying to keep his head level as the number of people who believe in his innocence begins to dwindle and the townsfolk quickly descend from dirty looks to outright violence. The supporting cast are also uniformly excellent, especially Annika Weiderkopp as Klara, the young girl at the centre of a shit-storm she knows she has caused but doesn’t fully understand.
An intense and difficult movie, but also one of the most important movies of the year, The Hunt is most definitely not for everybody, and doesn’t exactly lend itself to repeat viewings. Despite that, the central message and the central performance make it a must-watch, even if it is just the once.