Saturday, May 25, 2013

Jagten / The Hunt

Jahti / Jakten. DK © 2012 Zentropa Entertainments / Zentropa International. P: Sisse Graum Jørgensen / Morten Kaufmann / Thomas Vinterberg. D: Thomas Vinterberg. SC: Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg. DP: Charlotte Bruus Christensen - Camera: Arri Alexa Plus, Zeiss Master Prime Lenses - negative format: SxS Pro - master format: digital intermediate 2K - source format: ProRes 4:4:4 (1080p/24) - release format: DCP - 2,35:1. PD: Torben Stig Nielsen. Set dec: Rasmus Balslev-Olesen. Cost: Manon Rasmussen. Makeup: Bjørg Serup. Hair: Bettina Lervig. SFX: Hummer Høimark. VFX: Martin Madsen. M: Nikolaj Egelund. S: Kristian Eidnes Andersen. ED: Janus Billeskov Jansen, Anne Østerud. C: Mads Mikkelsen (Lucas), Thomas Bo Larsen (Theo), Annika Wedderkopp (Klara), Lasse Fogelstrøm (Marcus), Susse Wold (Grethe), Anne Louise Hassing (Agnes), Lars Ranthe (Bruun), Alexandra Rapaport (Nadja), Ole Dupont (Godsejer / Advokat). 115 min. Released by Atlantic Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Kauppila / Heidi Nyblom Kuorikoski. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 5, Helsinki, 25 May 2013

Official synopsis: "Following a tough divorce, 40-year-old Lucas has a new girlfriend, a new job and is in the process of reestablishing his relationship with his teenage son, Marcus. But things go awry. Just a story - a random lie. And as the snow falls and the Christmas lights are lit, the lie spreads like a virus. The shock and mistrust get out of hand, and the small community suddenly finds itself in a collective state of hysteria, while Lucas fights a lonely fight for his life and dignity."

Director's statement: "On a dark winter’s night in 1999, there was a knock on my door. A renowned Danish child-psychologist stood outside in the snow with some documents raving about children and their fantasies. He spoke about concepts such as “repressed memory”, and even more disturbing, about his theory that “thought is a virus”. I didn’t let him in. Didn’t read the documents. Went to bed."

"Ten years later I needed a psychologist. I called him, and as a belated form of politeness, I read the documents. And was shocked. Spellbound. And I felt that here was a story that needed to be told. A story of a modern-day witch-hunt. THE HUNT is the result of this reading."

From the pressbook: Excerpts from an interview originally written by Mike Goodridge for the Danish Film Institute and published in the May 2012 issue of FILM: "Thomas Vinterberg has always sought new ways to push his artistic limits. Now, the Danish director is bringing a powerful drama to the world’s most prestigious film festival. The Hunt, about a man wrongly accused who is exposed to the hatred of everyone in his small town, marks a return to the purity of vision he had at the beginning of his career, the director tells Mike Goodridge."

"In the frenzy of excitement that greeted Thomas Vinterberg’s international smash FESTEN (The Celebration) in 1998, he received numerous entreaties from all manner of people. One was a Danish psychiatrist who handed him a file of cases and said he had a responsibility to explore the other side of the abuse issues in the film. Overwhelmed with travel, development and new projects, he shelved it. Eight years later, Vinterberg was cleaning up his desk and came across the doctor’s file. “I read it and was totally stunned by it,” he explains. “I felt like I had to do this movie.”"

"The film that evolved from that chance discovery is The Hunt, the director’s seventh feature, and one which is bound to generate the international acclaim and controversy that he aroused with FESTEN 14 years ago. The subject this time is a false accusation against a mildmannered kindergarten teacher called Lucas (played by Mads Mikkelsen). In the panic and hysteria that follows the accusation Lucas’s life comes crashing down."

"No instance of abuse wrongdoing takes place in The Hunt. It is a more classic story of an unjustly accused man. Lucas – who, Vinterberg says, is unquestionably innocent – becomes the target of hatred by all in the small rural town where the film is set. He is initially presented as a kind and beloved man but is vilified overnight, abandoned by his lifelong friends and physically assaulted."

"Vinterberg, 43, also found himself probing wider contemporary issues like the viral nature of thought and identity. “It’s uncontrollable,” he says. “Especially in the world today where communication is so easy, people are being judged morally in all sorts of different media. You can tell stories about another person that very quickly become the identity of that person. The people in this town give Lucas a mark and create an identity around him that he will never escape. I find that really interesting and frightening.”"

"Central to the success of The Hunt is a powerful performance by Denmark’s biggest star Mikkelsen who subverts his hyper-masculine persona to play the hapless Lucas. It is the first time Vinterberg and Mikkelsen have collaborated and Vinterberg describes the process as “absolutely wonderful.”"

"“This character is in a way a portrait of a modern Scandinavian man,” says Vinterberg. “He is warm, friendly, helpful and humble. He does everything people ask him to, he is being run over by his ex-wife. He is castrated in a way. And the journey we made with Mads was to develop him from this person into the conflict of being a man. How does he keep his dignity without being violent? How does he manage this cold and brutal reality without taking a step from his Scandinavian character?”"

"“This very manly man, Mads, came into the film with all his beauty and muscles and we decided to flip the character and make him a humble schoolteacher. We worked constantly at not trying to create a myth out of this person but to stay in real life, and Mads is an expert at that. He is constantly demanding answers. Why am I doing that? Could I do this? Could I wear these? He would call me at any time asking different questions about the scenes and coming up with new lines. And when an actor gets the feeling that he knows the character through conversation and improvisation, then all the small details come. He feels calm enough to disappear into the unknown.”"

"Vinterberg recalls a pivotal scene in the film when, on Christmas Eve, Lucas goes to the local church service and faces a congregation of people who hate him. “Mads wept all day in every take in exactly the same way,” says the director. “I’ve never seen anything so professional. The scene was all mapped out very precisely but we shot it from many different angles and he has to go through several stages – determination, collapse, anger, relief. He wept for eight hours and there are very few actors that can do that.”"

The Hunt is one of the most distinguished and highly acclaimed films in the regular cinema repertory of Helsinki. I had postponed viewing it since I have found Thomas Vinterberg's films after his breakthrough somehow affected, without a sense of urgency, and even his great breakthrough movie, the succès du scandale Festen / The Celebration I found a clever provocation rather than a deeply felt achievement.

The Hunt is something different. It is a sincere movie, psychologically strong and subtle.

I have happened to hear of stories like this where a child's careless words are over-interpreted with tragic results leading to the destruction of lives and entire families. The Hunt is actually a happier story than some of the cases that take place in real life.

I appreciate the psychological nuances in the relationships of the teacher Lucas, his son Marcus, his girlfriend Nadja, his neighbour Theo, Theo's five-year-old daughter Klara, and the kindergarten director Grethe.

The witch-hunt and the violence of the majority of the village against Lucas I find less credible. I would not believe in such a story set in Finland, and even less in jovial Denmark. Also the final bullet I find implausible.

Klara soon regrets her stupid words and changes her mind, but people around her refuse to believe her consistent version and instead stick on the impulsive statement she happened to make once.

Even when the "thought virus" of "the secret cellar" of Lucas is exposed as a fabrication - Lucas has no cellar of any kind - the stigma remains.

I like the Lucas character (Mads Mikkelsen at his best) who can endure extreme pressure and vilification. There are loyal friends who don't fail him. Most importantly, his son Marcus defends him, and the ordeal becomes a part of Marcus's growing into manhood. Lucas stays and defends himself and becomes a part of the community again.

The Hunt is a compelling film about the power of fabrications.

The digital cinematography is fine for close-ups and interiors but fails in the important aspect of nature footage in the deer hunts. The nature looks unnatural and underwhelming.

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