The Hunt (2012)


Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ 


Clarification: the rating above indicates only that I did something while watching The Hunt that I almost never do while watching even the most tedious films: I paused it, ranted about it to my wife, listened to her rant to me about the same exact thing, and then we jointly agreed to turn it off and watch something else. So I’m not qualified to provide a rating for The Hunt, since I only experienced the first half hour.

I can, however, give a recommendation I think. But I’m going to make you read my subjective synopsis before I supply a recommendation. The Hunt was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award and currently claims an 8.3 on the Internet Movie Database, so I think I owe an explanation for why my wife and I so fervently resisted continuing past the first act. 

Here is how The Hunt plays out: Mads Mikkelsen’s character, Lucas, is a sad divorcee. He is, apparently, beloved by all, brave, great with children, empathetic, and nobly suffers a mysteriously vindictive wife who is horrible to him and keeps his son away from him for 12 out of every 14 days merely because she can (he had lost his job because of a school closing while they were getting divorced).

And then his life begins to turn around. He gains a position at the local kindergarten, his son convinces the ex-wife that he would prefer to live with his dad full-time, and the attractive foreign teacher’s aid at the kindergarten begins to come on to him pretty hot and heavy, promising to alleviate his loneliness. Hell–even his best friend with the rocky marriage seems to be getting along better with his own wife, probably as a result of being such good buddies with this paragon of virtue.

Oh, and did I mention that his best friend has a weird, depressed kindergarten-aged daughter named Klara with an unsettling facial tick, who has, apparently, developed a crush on Lucas as a result of him being just about the only person in the world who is ever nice to her? So one day at school, she wraps up a plastic heart and slips it into Lucas’s pocket while planting a kiss on his lips when he’s playing with the kids. Lucas has a private talk with her, tells nobody else (unwisely), and then of course proceeds to have his life ruined.

The scorned child naively mentions to the woman running the kindergarten that she hates Lucas because he’s ugly and stupid and has a penis “that points up, like a rod” (terminology she learned from her weird brother, who apparently thinks nothing of shoving pornographic images in her face for no reason at all), and this is the point that I kind of face-palmed.

We’ve all seen this movie before, right? Or this episode of Law & Order: SVU, or whatever. We know how this goes. It doesn’t end well for anybody. But we also know at this point that kids just flat-out make stuff up sometimes, and that when investigating these sorts of claims, you’ve got to be extremely careful to not paint a picture for them that they can easily map onto their memories. Because, yeah…as I said, we’ve all seen that movie. Well, all except for the people in this movie who work with children and have, one would think, taken at least one course in child development and psychology in their lives. Right?

I don’t know…maybe in Denmark, any fucking idiot can run a kindergarten. But in The Hunt, Lucas’s boss handles the issue as follows:

She calls Lucas into her office and tells her that a student claims Lucas showed her his penis. She provides him about two seconds to digest this, and while he is still reeling from this out-of-left-field accusation, she says, “Anyway, I’m too busy to talk about this now.” And she ushers the dumbfounded Lucas out the door (I guess she started to feel a little icky about it). Even though she has her suspicions about Klara’s story, she never talks with Lucas about how he might protect himself throughout the investigatory process moving forward. Because, you know…kids make stuff up, and the vague story that the girl, Klara, told doesn’t even make a lot of sense. In the United States, two thousand lawyers would have been consulted before this conversation even happened.

She shortly thereafter brings in some dude who has clearly never talked to a child before in his entire life. It’s unclear who this guy even is, but I presume he’s meant to be an administrator or maybe the school counselor or something. Apart from the fact that he’s a man conducting this very uncomfortable conversation with Klara (it should be a female), this is how The Hunt depicts this initial interview with a girl who everybody, apparently, knows has a “vivid imagination” (read: inclined to make stuff up):

“So let me tell you what I think happened. You were at school and Lucas showed you his penis, then made you touch it, and you saw white stuff come out. Is that it? No–no need to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or offer any sort of details of your own. This is what happened. Don’t mind Grethe over there puking in the trash can. This is totally out of your control now.” [Paraphrased]

This scene rang so false to me that I had to pause it and get up from the couch. This was the point at which my wife and I bilaterally agreed that this film wasn’t going to be worth watching to the end. While it’s not absolutely impossible that a situation could play out more or less like this somewhere in the world, I simply had no tolerance for the way that the film had manipulated its audience throughout the entire first act, and then proceeded to bring Lucas’s world crashing down around him based upon this very questionable behavior by the school administrators. It was so apparent that they had done everything in exactly the wrong way that it felt cheap to me and my wife. So I turned it off.

So no, I wouldn’t recommend it. Not unless you enjoy manipulative films.