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.
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 named Klara who attends Lucas' kindergarten, and 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 annual 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 thinks a kid of 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. The children don't understand the ramifications of what they're saying and hold no ill will toward anyone. The trope also comes into effect by provoking extreme hostility from the community on the mere suspicion that someone has threatened the innocence of their children.
- Convicted by Public Opinion: Despite the hearing bringing up multiple discrepancies in the stories their children are telling them, the entire town still believes that Lucas is a pedophile.
- 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.
- Dysfunctional Family:
- Lucas and his wife Kristen are divorced, and he is only allowed to see his son, Marcus, once every two weeks, despite Marcus wanting to see his father more often. She even disallows them speaking over the phone. Only after Marcus's repeated insistence does Kristen allow him to spend the Christmas at Lucas. The accusation makes this relationship even worse, which results in Marcus visiting Lucas without her mother's knowledge.
- Theo seems to have a happy family at first glance. However, a scene at the beginning suggests that not everything is in order. He and his wife Agnes are arguing really hard over who should bring their daughter Klara to the kindergarten. Klara's occasional swearing indicates that it's probably not the first time.
- 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 child molester.
- Friend to All Children: Lucas is presented as such in the first act.
- 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.
- Ignored Confession: About halfway through the film, Klara tells her mother the truth, that Lucas hadn't done anything to her and that she'd just said something foolish. Her mother doesn't listen to her, and instead writes it off as Klara trying to repress what happened.
- 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' house doesn't have a basement. This results in the case against him being dismissed.
- 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.
- Karma Houdini:
- Klara's brother Torsten could be considered one. He is the one who showed Klara the pornographic photo that contributes to part of Klara's lie, yet he receives no admonishment from his parents or anything resembling punishment for his (albeit unintentional) contribution to Lucas' trouble.
- It's possible that Grethe, the school principal (and the school itself), would be on the wrong end of a massive lawsuit for her shameful handling of the situation. But if that happened, we don't see it.
- The person shooting at Lucas also qualifies. The setting sun's at their back, making it impossible for Lucas to identify him, and they run off seconds later over a distant hill. Even if the bullet could be traced to the gun, it is likely the culprit would simply claim he didn't see Lucas or that the gun went off accidentally (excuses that would be borderline-impossible to disprove), making it unlikely the attempted murder could be punished.
- 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 evidence which 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 a trial, but the damage is already done.
- Mistaken for Pedophile: Played for Drama with Lucas. The film spend a lot of time showing how damaging it can be to an innocent person to be suspected of sexually assaulting a child, especially in a small, tight-knit community, and how long such an accusation can haunt someone.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Klara has a rather remorseful expression when she realizes what her accusations caused. Later Theo does the same when they find out that Lucas is innocent.
- 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 creators being aware of this trope and trying not to compromise the audience's 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.
- Ripped from the Headlines: Among others, the makers of this film had admitted to being inspired by the Bjugn affair from Norway in 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 prone 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 as 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 (a Russian 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.
- The Unsolved Mystery: Who killed the dog, and who shot at Lucas?
- Untrusting Community: Lucas is not welcome in the small town anymore after everyone believes him to be a child molester.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Klara's brother Torsten, whose brief display of pornographic material to his little sister helps lead to her angry lie about Lucas indecently exposing himself to her.
- 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.
- The Voice: Lucas' ex, Kirsten. She is heard repeatedly on the phone, but never makes it on screen.
- Window Pain: Lucas gets a stone thrown into his kitchen window.
- 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!: Klara's mother says, "You're a sick man." Many of the villagers say a variation of this.