Film: The Hunt

Yes, this is the good guy. Don't let his cheekbones trick you.

Lucas: You and I have to bring everything into the open.
Theo: Lucas, I know her. Why would she lie?

The Hunt (Jagten) is a 2012 Danish drama directed by Thomas Vinterberg. It's a study of human nature and mass hysteria. Sometimes, humans suck.

It is set in a small, conservative Danish community. It follows Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a well-liked, friendly kindergarten teacher and divorcé whose life has begun to improve. His relationship with his estranged son has bettered, and he has found new love with a co-worker named Nadja. He has his mates to support him, including best friend Theo (Thomas Bolarsen).

However, Theo has a daughter who attends Lucas' kindergarten named Klara, who rapidly develops an unhealthy obsession with Lucas. After she kisses him on the lips during school playtime, Lucas is quick to rebuff her infatuation. In a childish rage, she unwittingly implies to the head teacher, Grethe, that Lucas has sexually abused her.

The lie begins to mutate and grow, with Klara's account quickly spread by gossip. Through paranoia and the fact that kids often repeat what they hear, some of the other children report signs of abuse. Soon enough, the village turns on him, including the vast majority of his friends and co-workers. Because it's Lucas' word against Klara, and the adults believe that there's no way Klara would lie, he is quickly ostracised from the community. The only allies Lucas has are his son, Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom), and a few friends.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: The film provides an intense situation that is so down to earth that some might find it scarier than most horror films.
  • Berserk Button: Don't you ever mentioned the name "Kirsten" in Fanny's presence.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Theo realizes that Klara was lying and makes up with Lucas on Christmas. A year later, Lucas is reunited with Marcus and back with Nadja, and he and his son go on the hunt, where he has appeared to have made up with more of his friends. But tensions are still evident, and someone shoots at his head, misses, and then flees.
  • Bookends: The film begins and ends with the community's annual hunt.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • This entire movie is devoted to the breakage of Lucas. He begins as a likable, enthusiastic kindergarten teacher, but slowly degrades as gossip fans the flames. He is beaten, rejected and held in contempt.
    • This extends to Marcus, his son.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The townsfolk have a right to close their ranks against a predator in their neighborhood, but Lucas is, of course, innocent of the charges and should have a right to defend himself against them before being judged guilty by the community.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Subverted. Grethe think that a kid in that age is innocent and unable to tell a lie. Apparently she is mistaken.
  • Character Tic: Klara snuffles a lot.
  • Children Are Innocent: Stated word-for-word. All the movie's problems are based on a single lie from cute-faced Klara. Her words turn out deadly (for Fanny anyway) and if Klara was an adult, we would see her action as a wicked attempt to manipulate others for her own satisfaction. But at her age, Klara was simply confused and misinterpreted Lucas' rejection. It's adults like Grethe and Klara's mother who treated the case poorly.
    • The only person not actually buying into this trope is 16-year-old Marcus, who is in such a rage about Klara's lie that he spits in her face.
  • Corruption of a Minor: Unwittingly, Klara's brother helped to set the stage for the False Rape Accusation by showing his sister a photo of a "giant stiff rod" which disturbed her enough to use it against Lucas after he rejected her Precocious Crush.
  • The Determinator: Lucas insists on being allowed to buy his groceries, in spite of violent resistance.
  • Distant Epilogue: The last scenes are showing the characters a year after the incident.
  • Double Meaning Title: The Hunt can stand for either the annual hunt taken by all men of the community, which bookends the film, as well as the Pædo Hunt of Lucas.
  • False Rape Accusation: Klara's angry comments are misconstrued, and suddenly Lucas has to flee for his life from a murderous mob convinced he's a pedophile.
  • Friend to All Children: Lucas is presented as such in the first act.
  • The Ghost: Lucas' ex Kirsten. She is heard repeatedly on the phone but never makes an on-screen appearance.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Nadja takes off Lucas' glasses before they start kissing.
  • Hunting Accident: The final scene in which somebody shoots at Lucas during the hunt. The shot misses, intentionally or not.
  • Implausible Deniability: When Lucas confronts Klara about the love letter and she denies it despite the evidence.
    Lucas: I found a small present in my coat pocket.
    Klara: It's not from me.
    Lucas: But it says "Klara".
    Klara: Then someone must be teasing you.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: A reverse example. The children all say they were abused in Lucas' basement, all describing its grey walls and orange sofa. However, Lucas doesn't have a basement.
  • Infallible Babble: Klara's father finally decides to believe Lucas after hearing his half-awake daughter confess (again) to lying.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: Lucas buries Fanny in pouring rain.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: The way the children stop singing at the church when Lucas suddenly goes for Theo.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: The chubby fellow in the opening skinny dipping scene.
  • Malicious Slander: Lucas is wrongly accused of being a child molester, which quickly ruins his reputation in the Close-Knit Community and sets off a nasty Pædo Hunt.
  • Mama Bear: Klara's mother becomes ferocious when she thinks Lucas has molested her daughter, threatening to castrate him.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Before going to authorities, the schoolteacher seeks the opinion of someone without proper understanding of how to interrogate a child. Consequently, he leads her answers and produces false proof that is nonetheless taken for the truth. Had Klara been questioned by a qualified expert first, this all might have been avoided. Luckily, holes in the accusations ultimately spare Lucas from the charges, but the damage is already done.
  • Oh Crap!: Lucas learning that the rest of the children are lying about him, too.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: Lucas made life harder for himself by not immediately seeking help from a lawyer. This can be attributed to the creator being aware of this trope, trying not to compromise the audience' perception of his innocence.
  • Papa Wolf: Theo threatens to put a bullet in Lucas' brain if the rumors are proven true.
  • Pædo Hunt: The bulk of the film is the community turning on a member they mistakenly believe to be a child molester.
  • Parents in Distress: Marcus, who loves his father, tries to force Klara to admit she's lying in order to get him released after he's arrested. Unfortunately, he's treated about the same as Lucas, simply for being his son.
  • Potty Dance: One of the kids from the nursery does this in an early scene.
  • Precocious Crush: Klara for Lucas, with a pretty horrendous outcome.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Fanny gets killed in revenge for Lucas' supposed crime.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Who killed the dog, and who shot at Lucas?
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Amongst others, the makers of this film had admitted to being inspired by the Bjugn case in Norway from 1992.
  • Running Gag: Fanny's Berserk Button.
  • Snowball Lie: Klara starts the lie in the heat of being angry with Lucas. The other children pick it up and make it worse (as children are wont to do), which makes matters even worse for Lucas.
  • Spiteful Spit: Marcus spits in Klara's face as a sign of his utter contempt for her lying.
  • Stress Vomit: Grethe throws up discretely during Klara's interview and then continues if nothing had happened.
  • Surprisingly Good English: Nadja speaks better English than Danish, so people will occasionally switch to perfectly fluent English to help her understand. Nadja herself (played by a Swedish actress) prefers to speak in English and is also fluent.
  • Think of the Children!: The village becomes paranoid and hysterical because of the threat Lucas poses to their kids.
  • Untrusting Community: Lucas is not welcomed in the small town anymore after everyone believed him to be a child molester.
  • Use Your Head: Lucas' revenge headbutt against the butcher.
  • Villainous Cheekbones: Mads Mikkelsen's natural cheekbones help gives his character a villainous look in spite of the fact that he is innocent of the charges.
  • Window Pain: Lucas gets a brick thrown into his kitchen window, supposedly by Theo.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Theo and the big blond guy get rough on Marcus, after the latter spits on Klara.
  • You Can Always Tell a Liar: Theo mentions early on that he knows when Lucas is lying, he sees it in his eyes. When he's lying he blinks. If he's not blinking, he's telling the truth. Lucas did not blink in the church while saying he's innocent. That's the moment Theo realizes his friend did not do what they accused him of. Cue a My God, What Have I Done? moment by Theo.
  • You Monster!: Karla's mother says "You're a sick man.". Many of the villagers say a variation of this.