The ‘For Your Consideration’ Series Rolls its Reel with ‘The Hunt’


Anjila Hjalsted

The Oscar-nominated Danish movie “The Hunt” (“Jagten”) has brought in close to 8 million U.S. dollars in Denmark alone, and has been globally acclaimed for its portrayal of the very touchy topic of sexual abuse.

Shown at University of California, Santa Barbara’s Pollock Theater on Tuesday, Feb. 18, “The Hunt” was the opening film for the Carsey-Wolf Center’s “For Your Consideration” series, which presents the Oscar-nominated foreign language films and short animations of 2014.

The animated short film “Feral,” by Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden, is a dark, surrealistic adventure about a wild boy who lives in the woods. He is found by a hunter and brought back to civilization, but he has a hard time fitting in and finally returns to the forest. Animated in only black-and-white, “Feral” has no dialogue, but is accompanied by sounds and music. It portrays a twisted world–halfway disturbingly and halfway curiously–distorting features of the people and animals in it, like the overly-dimensioned wolves in the forest.

“The Hunt” is a film by the Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, renowned for his 1998 “The Celebration” (“Festen”), a film that also deals with sexual abuse. “The Hunt” is a beautiful and haunting movie, showing the often unexplored side of sexual assault–the case of false accusation, seen from the perspective of the accused. It also shows how fast friends can turn to enemies, as well as how bureaucratic the legal system is when handling such a case.

Mads Mikkelsen (also in “Casino Royale” and “Hannibal”) skillfully portrays Lucas, a divorced father who works in the local kindergarten of a small Danish town. Things get complicated when he is falsely accused of sexually abusing Klara, a girl in kindergarten who is also his best friend’s daughter.

As Lucas’ colleagues and the majority of his friends begin to believe what the children in the kindergarten are saying about him, Lucas is fired, socially excluded, banned from the local stores, physically beat up, and finally arrested and brought to court. All of this occurs while he is fighting to gain custody of his teenage son.

After going through trials, Lucas is found innocent and finally forgiven by the townspeople. However, the ending of the movie shows that once someone is accused of sexual abuse, the accusation stays with him or her forever.

A very emotional moment in the film comes when someone flings a large stone through Lucas’ kitchen window, almost hitting him and his son. Going outside, Lucas finds a big, black plastic bag on his porch. Inside the bag is his dog–dead, with a rope around its neck. This marks the point of no return, where someone in the town would hurt Lucas and the things he loves to avenge the crime he “committed.”

This film raises awareness about the seriousness of sexual abuse and how easy it is to accuse someone of it. It raises questions concerning innocence and guilt, and had me thinking about what is fair or even rational, even for the most heinous crimes. That being said, it is also important to bear in mind all of the real cases of sexual abuse that happen, posing a dilemma about what we should believe–a dilemma that is part of what makes this film so interesting.

Being from Denmark, I enjoyed the Danishness of this film; the drinking games, subtle social interaction, and dialogue are all very well portrayed. “The Hunt” was shown in Danish with English subtitles. Translating slang, songs, and idioms is always challenging, but it was fairly well done in this film.

“The Hunt” soared at the Danish Academy Awards, taking seven Robert trophies, including best film, best director, and best actor (Mikkelson) for lead character.