The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012)

What's it about? Quiet kindergarten worker Lucas (Mads Mikkelson) is wrongfully accused of abusing one of his charges. Despite his innocence, the accusation has corrosive effects on his standing in his close-knit community.

Is it any good? An uncomfortably tense drama as you might expect from the subject matter. Vinterberg perceptively presents the moral panic that surrounds such a delicate topic, as kneejerk, but understandable, (over)reactions to the accusations threaten to destroy a man's life. Mikkelson is excellent as the mild-mannered man aghast at the charges against him, winning the Best Actor at Cannes for his affecting turn as his community turns on him. It's uncomfortable to watch because it is clear how easily a situation like this could spiral out of control, when events are clumsily mishandled by well-meaning adults. It tries a little too hard to labour the 'hunt' metaphor and it is convenient for the story that Lucas doesn't protest his innocence more vehemently, but therein lies the really uncomfortable thing. Despite the fact that his innocence is made clear from the start, this reaction to the charges meant I kept wondering if there was some substance to the claims. Why? Was it because I was expecting a twist in the story, or is it that I am no different from the people in the film, far too eager to see wrong-doing where there was none? 

Anything else I should know? A timely watch for this film, given the latest rash of media revelations/rumours in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal. Although The Hunt doesn't deal with the idea of trial-by-(social)media, it is still very relevant to real-life situations like this, where actual evidence about the guilt or innocence of the accused matters for little as the no-smoke-without-a-fire mentality whips people into a hysterical, finger-pointing frenzy. Of course, no discussion of this state of affairs should pass up a chance to direct people to the notorious Brass Eye episode which so brilliantly satirized media hysteria and hypocrisy in topics like this.

What does the Fonz think? Won't somebody think of the children?

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