'The Hunt' review: Guilty until proven innocent

'The Hunt'

'The Hunt' (July 30, 2013)

**1/2 (out of four)

Early in the Danish drama "The Hunt," Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) tells his wife, Agnes (Anna Louise Hassing), that she's beautiful because she doesn't know it. Since he neglects to cite One Direction, I assume he wants his word to be taken on its own.

But taking a man's word isn't always possible, as the couple's best friend, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen of NBC's "Hannibal"), learns after Theo and Agnes' kindergartner, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), claims Lucas -- her neighbor and a teacher at her school -- exposed himself to her. Lucas didn't do it. But when a child says something like that, you take it seriously.

Soon this likable guy's out of a job and his teenage son, Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom), no longer plans to come live with Lucas. It's odd that Lucas doesn't deny the accusations more strongly off the bat -- he seems shell-shocked that people either assume his guilt or even suspect he could be capable of the crime -- and an anonymous act of retribution will feel familiar for anyone who's seen how pets often play into films like this.

Yet even if director/co-writer Thomas Vinterberg doesn't generate the tension of "Notes on a Scandal" or fully connect Lucas' hunting hobby to the community's ruthless pursuit of their target, "The Hunt" lets viewers feel the frustration of a victim given no trust or genuine opportunity for defense. Leading questions are asked, and kids, not unlike adult inmates, may say anything to get out of an interrogation.

Considering the skepticism frequently issued to many adults who bring charges for sexual assault, it's good to see an incident like this presented with paramount importance. "The Hunt" shows that even when Klara's parents and their friends aren't sure, they'd rather be wrong on the defensive than be wrong and do nothing.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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