Jagten, English title The Hunt, tells a harrowing tale: Mads Mikkelsen’s Lucas, a lonely man who seeks custody of his teenage son Marcus and works at the local kindergarten, is accused of child abuse and consequently his life falls apart. Giving this away isn’t a spoiler: the film isn’t about surprises, it’s about developing characters and exploring what happens when a child’s lie is misconstrued by adults. Jagten tells us that in some cases “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t apply and that people can do terrible things for all the right reasons.
Its subject matter isn’t necessarily new, but the execution of the story is where Jagten excels. The storytelling is subtle, it’s like the camera just registers what’s happening, how people react and how Lucas’s life changes. There’s no score that directs what you’re supposed to feel and there are no blacks and whites, only many shades of gray and characters who try to do the right thing, even when they make horrible decisions. Jagten is one of those films that get under your skin, have you screaming at what’s unfolding on the screen, and Jagten offers no easy answers. It’s not a movie you’ll want to watch to relax, but it is a movie that’s utterly moving and deserves an audience.
Once again Mads Mikkelsen delivers a stunning performance. Lucas is a man pushed to the breaking point, introverted and shocked at first, angry and desperate later on. Lucas does his best to prove his innocence and Mikkelsen makes you feel his fear and frustration, his face and movements reflecting the emotions and thoughts present in Lucas’s head. He won the Palm d’Or for Best Actor at Cannes last year and it’s easy to see why. But it’s also apparent Mikkelsen and the other actors have a wonderful script to work with, written by Tobias Lindholm and director Thomas Vinterberg. There’s so much detail and subtlety there, which is one the main reasons the film works so well.
Jagten succeeds on all levels: it’s a beautiful film with a paralyzing story, a tremendous cast and beautiful work by its director and cinematographer. The film’s been nominated for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award and it absolutely deserves to take the Oscar home. 9/10