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The Hunt

Year: 2012
Production Co: Film i Väst
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Producer: Thomas Vinterberg
Writer: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Annika Wedderkopp

There's a South Park episode where Stan's aged, ailing grandfather – sick of living – continually asks the boys to help him put himself out of his misery.

Every time the guys bring it up with the adults around them, from parents to Chef and even Christ himself (by calling in to the TV show Jesus and Pals), they're constantly told 'I'm not touching that one with a 20 foot pole.'

You're reminded about their plight as you watch The Hunt, because this is the kind of movie very few producers – certainly American ones – would touch with a 20 foot pole. But Danish writer/director/producer Thomas Vinterberg isn't squeamish, much like countryman Lars von Trier.

And just when you thought there couldn't be another South Park parallel in the terrifying story of a man accused of paedophilia, keep watching. Two of the underlying themes of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's subversive comedy are how little kids aren't all innocent, fragile petals but can actually be lying, vindictive, bad people when they want and how the adult world responds to any perceived threat to a child with hysteria. Watch the number of episodes that end with the townspeople surrounding the school or city hall with flaming torches.

Mild-mannered kindergarten teacher Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen, a million miles away form the assured, suave Bond villain Le Chiffre) is doggedly battling his ex wife for access to his teenaged son, but things are looking up in his personal life thanks to the advances of a pretty colleague.

Then a pint-sized nuclear device explodes when a little girl under his care insinuates to other teachers that he's touched her inappropriately. We see the confluence of events that lead little Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) to make such a stunning claim – all of them of little consequence in themselves, but forming a tinderbox just waiting for a match.

Despite Vinterberg's dead-serious treatment of the material through performance, setting and tone, you can't help but think of the South Park parents when poor Klara – realising how much trouble she's stirred up – tries to come clean and is told she's just blocking the trauma of what happened to her out. You almost expect the town to be surrounding Lucas' flat with pitchforks in the next scene.

His life slowly but surely falls apart, from abandonment by his friends to being told he can't shop in his local store any more. It starts with one offhand comment by an angry little girl, and before long you'd think he'd systematically and brutally raped every child in town in his dank dungeon full of chains and torture devices.

The single frustrating note is how Lucas drives everyone away who can possibly give him the sense of self and support he needs, from his new girlfriend to his son (who comes to stay with him and even goes to any length to defend his father, including confronting Klara angrily).

But even after the investigation vindicates Luca, The Hunt is about how some crimes are so abominable even the hint of them leaves a stain. The title refers concurrently to the recreational hunting most of the men take part in during the season and the rejection and hatred the community suddenly treats Lucas with – even his best friend (Klara's father). In the final tragic scene, it's apparent Lucas will never escape the blemish on his character for even a hint of child molestation despite due process of law and the principle of innocence until guilt is proven.

The Hunt might also remind you of The Shining. Stanley Kubrick is said to have been so determined to protect Danny Lloyd – who played Danny Torrance at only seven years old – from the subject matter he managed the shoot so as not to expose the boy to any horror imagery. Even when Wendy (Shelley Duvall) screams accusations at Jack (Jack Nicholson) about the marks on Danny's neck and backs out of the Colorado Lounge with the boy in her arms, legend has it she's carrying a dummy.

Watching young Wedderkopp, who can't be much more than six, makes you similarly curious whether Vinterberg staged the shoot to shield the little girl from any subject matter about child molestation, but some of her dialogue seems to make that impossible.

In a less progressive country you can imagine a kids' interests group calling for a boycott of the film for exposing a little kid to the very idea of a movie about paedophilia. We might see the flaming torches and pitchforks of South Park come out yet...

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