The Hunt (Jagten) (2012)

I sat down to watch The Hunt, a Danish film starring Mads Mikkelsen. A thought provoking look at a modern day Witch Hunt.

The film deals with a teacher that is falsely accused of abusing children. It focuses on how the adults come to the conclusion and what happens to the teacher throughout the ordeal.

I’ll admit to watching this film purely because it has Mikkelsen in it, not that I wouldn’t be intrigued by it anyway. It is an interesting idea for a film, it came out in 2012 but after the Saville case in England it asks a lot of really difficult questions.

The film makes it clear (though according to some maybe not clear enough) that the accusations of abuse are false. Lucas (Mikkelsen) is a Kindergarten teacher who just seems to love his job. He’s divorced and fighting for the right to have his son full time. His best friend Theo’s daughter goes to the Kindergarten, at the beginning of the film you get the feeling that even though her family is loving at times Klara is forgotten about. Her older brother is a normal teenager, and him and his friend talks about inappropriate things in front of her, when her mother and father fight (ironically about who is going to take her to school) they forget about her or whether she can hear them. Lucas becomes somewhat like a obsession for her. He’s kind to her, lets her walk his dog and takes her to school. But when her obsession becomes too much and he does the right thing and tells her that she shouldn’t be giving him presents but the kids in her class she becomes upset. Later that day she tells the women in charge (Grethe, don’t get me started on her character!) that she doesn’t like Lucas and basically repeats something she’s heard her brother saying earlier in the film.

From this Grethe starts a witch hunt, she gets a friend in (his position is never made clear in the film other then he’s her friend) to talk to the girl, all he does is invent a story for himself and forces her to agree with him. At no point does she tell the police until the whole village has interrogated their children and came up with a wild story of abuse in a basement that doesn’t exist.

In all this time the parents of Klara never bother to ask her for the truth, everyone just believes that this man that it seems they grew up with and know so well is a child abuser. They don’t listen to his story and when the case is thrown out of court because of no evidence and the stories being proven to be false in at least the aspect of him not having a basement to his house the people STILL carry on believing in the worst of him.

The theme being that children NEVER lie.

And this is true. Klara is shown through the whole film to be telling the truth, but a childs truth. She’s angry at being rejected, she doesn’t understand why she’s being rejected by the only person who was there for her, and then suddenly everyone is listening, her parents aren’t fighting and her brother is playing with her. She never once really lies, she’s asked leading questions by Grethe’s friend and only agrees because they won’t let her go to play. When she tries to tell people that they’ve gotten the wrong idea to the parents it just sounds like she’s scared.

It really is a well written film.

The film ends with the idea that he’ll never live this down. People are acting civil to him but you can see it in their faces they still believe the worst of him to the point one of them tries to shoot him.

It was a hard film to watch though, for me personally. There is a truth to the fact that when a child says something like Klara did you do have to take it at face value and then find out what happened. For me the film did make it clear that Lucas was innocent, and for me it made it harder to watch because you see the lengths that Grethe went to believe the children and make up a story that ruined a man’s life. I’m not sure we are meant to hate her character but I can’t help but really despise her nonetheless! Personally if I was in her shoes the first thing I would have done would not be to tell the childs parents, or the parents of all the children in the nursery. It definitely wouldn’t be to call a friend to talk to her. My first port of call would be the police. Police are trained to question adults and children alike without asking leading questions. They’ll find the truth out. Unfortunately the police are only called when the damage is already done.

To Lucas AND the children.

By the time the police come to call for him Grethe and her party of witch hunters have confused young children, children who can no longer tell whether something bad has happened or not. She’s informed his ex-wife not that an investigation is ongoing but that the father of her child is a child abuser who her son needs protecting from. A small community turns on someone on the words of one child.

It is a scary situation, I guess you don’t know how you’d react. I remember when my niece who was three at the time came home telling us that someone had shown them their willy at school, my sister was a bit worried until the teachers wrote home the next day saying that one of the little boys had been walking around with his trousers down and that parents needed to talk to their children about not exposing themselves etc. That accident still effects people around my niece, she now knows the word willy and knows boys have them so when she told my sisters boyfriend that he’s a smelly boy with a willy he was shocked. People don’t expect kids to know these words, let alone be able to use them correctly. In the film Klara only knows the word penis and the phrase she uses (something like its as stiff as a stick) because her brother and his friend were watching porn and her brothers friend showed her a picture and said it in front of her.

No one knew that. At no time in the movie was that then brought up again.

So when faced with a child that you don’t believe should know anything like that saying something like that to you without knowing the facts like the audience did you would jump to conclusions. I mean how would a four year old know about penis’s? Let alone them being stiff?

So in a way Grethe is justified to have her doubts, the way she went about dealing with them was more then wrong.

My only quibble with the film is that it didn’t go into the interviewing. We saw the first of what seemed like a couple interviews with Klara this gentleman had, and that was it. We never saw a police officer talk to any of the children, we never even saw the parents talking to other children, you are never told where the story about a basement came from, let alone how any of the parents didn’t realise that Lucas doesn’t have a basement (all the houses looked pretty similar to me!) You don’t even get to see Lucas being interviewed. By the time Lucas is taken away by the police his son has came to live with him and through the night that he’s being held before going before the judge his son Marcus is the focal point.

It would have been an interesting thing to see, it really was a story of Chinese Whispers.

The film really did just zero in to the effect it had on Lucas. He lost his job, his friends and he became agitated to the point a simple question (understandably asked) by his girlfriend who had just gotten back from being grilled by the teachers at the Kindergarten made him lose his temper. You see him beaten in the local shop, break down in church and at the end you see him come to the realisation that his life will never be the same again.

It is a sad story, one that really hits home. It is wonderfully acted by a great cast. Mads Mikkelsen deserves all the praise he got for the film, you really do feel sorry for him and even when he’s being irrational (understandable really) you understand why. His relationship with his son, his grief over losing his dog and the fact that by the end of it he didn’t hold a grudge against a child (if I’d seen Klara again afterwards whether my friend had forgiven me or not I wouldn’t have picked her up! I wouldn’t have even talked to her!) is just so human. I did love that it made it clear he hadn’t done anything because it would have been difficult not to have been moved quite as much if you’d been left with the unclear idea in the back of your head that he COULD have done something.

I have to say it made me emotional. I had to watch it in two goes because I got so angry at the way Grethe handled the whole situation that I turned it off the first time and couldn’t come back to it till a few days later, even then I skipped it to where I’d seen it so I didn’t lose my temper a second time. Maybe not the reaction they wanted to evoke, but quite a strong one. For a moment I forgot that these were just characters in a TV show, I forgot that it wasn’t actually important. All I could see was a women doing her best to destroy a man’s life.That was what made the film so good, it did evoke a great sense of emotion in people.

I mean I’ve seen people who have come up with explanations of how Lucas DID do it, people really believe he did abuse the kids. I’ve seen people who are in two minds on the matter. For me it was cut and dry that he was innocent, but its brought out a lot of healthy discussion and debate on just how to deal with a childs accusations.

I really do think the film is worth watching, its beautifully filmed and has such a strong cast. You fall in love with the characters before seeing them all torn apart in a world gone mad. None of the adults understand what is going on, the reaction of his friend Theo is actually very strongly portrayed by Thomas Bo Larsen, his face from the moment he heard what apparently happened was perfect in my opinion. Whereas others had made up their minds he was confused, his face looked blank, emotionless as he tried to come to terms with how his friend could do something and how he could let it happen.

Plus it was nice to see how great a little actress Annika Wedderkopp was, she was great in the film.

It is a film worth seeing, a film that I doubt I’ll be able to watch again in a long while not because it was terrible but because its easy to lose yourself into the story and become involved in a way. It really did make me so angry and at times I was speechless at what was going on. It is such a strong film and it had to be. It was asking questions that are difficult for any adult to really talk about and it couldn’t shy away from answering them. Its strength was in its direction, it didn’t mind answering these questions, it didn’t mind raising them. It didn’t mind showing the destruction of the adults life which is something not everyone wants to think about.

The subject is one that really hurts adults, not even just parents but adults in particular. You don’t want to think of children lying, if they tell you something like what Klara said you want to believe them and help them. Sometimes you’ll never get the full truth and that is where this film excelled. The truth was that Klara was in an unhealthy place at home, not being abused by her parents but forgotten and left out. Her brother was inappropriate around her and she became attached to the adult that gave her attention. When he too turned his back on her (in her eyes) she took her frustrations out on him. We know this by watching what happened on screen, it was as much a story about how Klara got to this point as Lucas. But what happens if this happened to you? Grethe had no way to know that half of what Klara said was said by her brother and his friend so how would you?

Its a sad and scary story. Really a great film. A modern day witch hunt. I really do recommend you to find a copy and go out and watch it.

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