When everyone believes something, does it make it true? In the 2012 film “The Hunt,” we watch a schoolteacher’s life become completely unravelled after allegations of child abuse bubble up from a dubious source. And like a slow motion train wreck, what results brings out the worst in nearly all the members of the small Danish village where he lives.
Mads Mikkelsen, who played a villain in the 2006 James Bond movie Casino Royale and is one of Denmark’s most famous leading men, is Lucas, a beloved teacher, the kind of guy who gets down on his hands and knees to rough-house with the youngsters. He has gone through a bitter divorce, and his station in life is low, but he’s happy, surrounded by good friends, hunting buddies and a budding romance. One of the tots in the school hears her older brothers talking dirty–and then we see her make up a tale of being touched by Lucas.
The predicable tsunami of outrage begins to wash over the village. “Are you sure he did that, Klara?” asks the sincere school director, and the investigator is also sure that kids can’t be lying. It doesn’t take long for Lucas to be summarily tried and convicted in public opinion, as we watch his best friend Theo and his wife turn against him and reject his claims of innocence.
All the while, Klara is confused by the chaos her allegations have caused, as even the local grocery store won’t allow Lucas to buy food for his Christmas table. He loses his job, and it seems everyone, except his son’s godfather, believes he did it. He finds solace when his son comes to his door, another who still has faith in him, and as the holidays commence, he has no where to go. Even his budding love affair is dashed on the rocks of doubt and mistrust. Even after he’s acquitted in court, the public still shuns him and violently attacks him at every turn.
The movie is well paced and to the end, we’re rooting for the truth to win out…but it takes time, and it’s clear that one year later, things are mostly healed. But the last scene where an errant gunshot nearly kills him proves that sometimes, you can never undo other people’s lies.