Danish drama The Hunt stars Mads Mikkelsen as Lucas, a nursery teacher living in a small town in the Danish countryside. A series of miscommunications and confusions lead to him being falsely accused of sexually abusing a young girl. Despite a lack of evidence, the whole town turns against him, as more children accuse him of a crime he didn’t commit. He loses his job, best friend, and most importantly, his reputation.
The film is brutally honest in its exploration of mass hysteria and the lost-lasting damage false accusations can have on a person. It also delves into child psychology, criticising the profound innocence parents place on their children- the young accuser is automatically assumed to be telling the truth because children ‘never lie,’ despite the complete and utter devastation of Lucas’ life. The close-knit community becomes almost animalistic in its character assassination of Lucas and the popular, happy-go-lucky teacher at the beginning of the film quickly fades into a social recluse.
False accusations are unfortunately far from rare, especially in modern society. The cutthroat tabloid press often disregards the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’ which can have a devastating effect on innocent lives. A famous example being Christopher Jefferies, who in 2010 was arrested for the murder of his tenant Joanna Yeates and was subject to a barrage of libellous and defamatory abuse from tabloids. He was later cleared of charges and the publications publically apologised, but the damage had been done. His life had been turned upside down and even today he says he avoids going out in public in case he is recognised.
Mads Mikkelsen is subtlety stunning in his portrayal of Lucas, a man who is slowly being crushed by the weight of a child’s accusation. Mikkelsen shot to international recognition in 2006 for his portrayal of Le Chiffre in Casino Royale and more recently as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal. He has become an emblem of Danish cinema and arguably one of the country’s most famous faces (alongside Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Wadau.) The Hunt is a must-see, especially for fans of Scandinavian dramas.