Monday, 22 April 2013

Film: 'JAGTEN' / 'THE HUNT'

Arresting, disturbing and scarily believable Danish film.

Mads Mikkelsen (of whom I too had never heard until his villain-turn in 'Casino Royale') plays the sole male teacher in a small nursery where one of the few attending children is his best friend's 5-year old daughter. One day she tries to give him a small gift but he, thinking it would be inappropriate to accept it, gently suggests she ought to give it to one of the little boys instead. The girl, not understanding the reason for his refusal, takes revenge by telling the nursery head that he has exposed himself to her. Of course at her age she has no notion of the potential consequences. The head's initial scepticism gnaws at her until she feels she has to confront him, while the girl maintains the lie - at least until it's too late when even her retraction isn't believed, most of all by the girl's own parents who, unable to accept that their daughter could have told an untruth, convince her that what she said she saw was real. You can probably guess the trajectory the story takes, and you'd be right. Ostracism, police, open hostility - word gets round the town where both he and his teenage son (of an estranged and hostile wife) are not even allowed to enter their local foodstore. The other young kids at the nursery, hearing the story, join in the conspiracy, saying that the teacher has also abused them. If I also say that the latter has a much-loved pet dog - well, I don't think there's any need to go into further detail.

This is a modest but brilliantly effective film which I don't hesitate to recommend. Its power is in the totally credible situation where we all wonder how many lives have been destroyed by lies generating circumstances which snowball out of control. [Even worse (if that's possible) would be cases where older children, who are aware of consequences, decide to bring down an adult they dislike - though that's not the case here].
Acting is uniformly of a very high standard. It's also a refreshing 'plus' to see a film where we are asked to empathise with a character who doesn't own classic 'good looks'. (We know from the moment of the lie that he is innocent, so it's not a 'spoiler'.)
A couple of moments of discomfort for me personally was seeing a deer actually being shot (near the start of the film) - and, in rather more prolonged form, witnessing the fate of the aforementioned dog. (I always wonder how they do this on film - seeing a dog which is lively and happy, then later...... Surely they don't do the unthinkable, even if that 'unthinkable' is cheaper and far less trouble to achieve? I don't wish to dwell on it.)  Also, the cavalier attitude and merriment of the male hunting party - as well as the teacher's son's coming-of-age when he is allowed to join that party - was difficult for me to take, though that of course is the reason for their having such a group in the first place.
But if I divorce my difficulties on this aspect, which most of this film's viewers will either not share or are able to dismiss such feelings easier than I can, I have to say that this is a very accomplished film which I would urge anyone to see.

A highly deserving..............................8/10.

18 comments:

  1. Damm
    I was going to out to see this a week or so ago and couldn't be arsed
    Damm

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    1. I thought I'd missed it too, J.G. I'd been looking forward to it after seeing so many positive reviews. Luckily it came for just one day to my closest cinema, really unusual for a non-English language film.
      If you are able to catch it by other means you won't regret it.

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  2. It sounds excellent Ray. I know it's stupid but the dog scene would stop me from watching it! The Danes offer some excellent viewing - I thoroughly enjoyed Borgen on BBC 4 recently.

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    1. Not 'stupid' at all, Craig. If I'd known about it beforehand I wouldn't have gone either. I've been aware for some time that you and I are totally on the same wavelength as regards animals.
      In this film one doesn't actually see the dog meeting its end (you'd have guessed by now that it's killed) but there are unnecessarily lingering shots of its body afterwards, and that worries me. But (swallowing hard), if we could all be reassured that it wasn't harmed at all, then we can set that point aside and see that this is a terrific film. Still disturbing to see it depicted, though.

      Although I don't watch TV serials (don't watch much TV in any case) I'm aware of the strong thumbs-up that 'Borgen' has had. Scandinavian productions seem to be the 'place to go' these days.

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    2. The dog looked pretty dead to me even on film. I am just watching it now and I have to know it wasnt real before I hit the play button again. Did any on you found out anything?

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    3. The whole dog incident is burned into my mind indelibly now, Gaby. I only wish it could be erased but a year later it's still there, so wishing it removed is hoping against hope. I don't know the circumstances of how they filmed the poor thing meeting its end - and I really don't want to know.

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    4. Thomas Vinterberg has stated that no animals were harmed in the making of the film, except the deer at the beginning, and it was going to be shot anyway, by the 'national hunter'. So they were allowed to film it happen. Not that it makes it any better for the poor deer in question, but at least it wasn't done specifically for the film. That dog was anaesthetized for sure.

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    5. I'm very grateful for that clarification, WBM. I suppose it does make things a little bit easier and I do really have to struggle to get these things in proportion. A lot of people wouldn't give it a second thought whereas it's been in my blood all my life to worry about needless violence towards and the suffering of animals, which too often clouds an entire film for me. But I feel no shame it declaring it so.
      Thanks again.

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    6. I'm very sorry to say that the dog was actually killed for the film, and (horrifying to relate) was eaten by the crew shortly afterwards.

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    7. I'm taking your comment as a nasty joke, K.L.

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  3. Scandinavian films rarely, if ever, are shown here. Therefore, it's unlikely that I'll ever have to make the decision if I should see this. If I had the chance to make that decision, it would be a definite NO, based on the incidents in the film you mentioned.

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    1. That's well understood, Paul. If I'd known about what the film contains (I'm assuming you're also referring to the animals) I'd have given it a miss too, even in the knowledge that it had had superlative reviews. But I suppose in this case ignorance beforehand was better, or I'd have missed a powerful film.

      Yes, I hadn't thought I'd ever get a chance to see this - it's already a year old. And it came, not to an art-house cinema, but for just one day to the closest cinema to me, usually showing blockbusters. e.g. 'Oblivion' is also on there right now but it sounds like such a waste of time that I'll probably not bother.

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  4. Thanks for the wonderful review. I am not sure how long it will be before the film arrives in our part of the world. I am afraid the dog business will be a deal breaker for me seeing it but I would like to try. You description of the plot brings to mind two plays I like very much; "The Children's Hour" and The Crucible".

    Mads Mikkelsen is in a television series here where he plays Hannibal Lechter. I have only seen 3 episodes so far so I am not sure whether I'll like it. I find the ideal of a Silence of the Lambs spin off tv series kind of bizarre.

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    1. Yes, H.K. - there's nothing especially different about the death of a dog in this film, though seeing such an event at all always upsets me. So, for zoophiles - and for cynophiles in particular - one needs to be prepared and, like I did, to look away.
      Now you mention it, there is a bit of 'The Crucible' element in the story. I'm less familiar with 'Children's Hour' though I do know that tale's drift - and, yes again it does have some resonance.

      M.M. as Hannibal Lecter? I can believe he'd be considered good for the part - largely (and unfairly) because he has a somewhat unusual (= non-handsome) physiognomy - which often in films (TOO often, I think) is convenient shorthand to indicate some sort of psychological disfigurement. (When did anyone see a 'hero' on film with a scar? - Harry Potter aside.)
      Don't think I like the idea of a 'Lambs' spin-off, though.

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  5. Did they really killed the deer and the dog? the filme is very good, but if those were real scenes, it's inadmissible!

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    1. My thoughts exactly, Monica. I'm pretty sure that the deer was killed, as it was part of a hunt (reflecting the film's title) which I'm sure goes on every day throughout the world, including Europe of course - though that doesn't make it any easier to watch or to excuse it.
      The dead dog is more debatable. I'd like to think that if it became known that the actual dog was put to death then there'd be an outcry. But if it wasn't really killed, the showing of the dog's corpse in lingering shot, especially as it's being buried, was still realistic enough to give me worry.
      Pity that both these incidents marred what would otherwise have been for me a near-perfect film. However, even though I can't simply forget the images I'm bound to give it a (for me) very high score.

      Many thanks for your visit, M.

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  6. I just finished watching this film last night and was interested in finding out whether or not it was a real dog and I found this blog. Very upsetting and it stuck with me almost enough to lose interest in the final part of the film.
    Anyways, great review and I agree that the cast did very well. I'm definitely interested in finding more films with Mikkelson

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Josh. I find that any harm done to animals on film distorts my view of it, even if we know (as I want to think) that in reality no harm is done. I have to compartmentalise my mind when something like it is seen, which is not easy to do - but sometimes the memory of it lingers long afterwards, as it does in this film. But I have to assume that in this case that it was not real - if I don't it would drive me mad!
      That aspect aside, I still think this was a remarkable film, perfectly illustrating how easy it is for an innocent person to be made a victim.
      Mads Mikkelsen, whom a lot of us had never heard of prior to 'Casino Royale', is a high quality actor capable of a range of roles - villain and, as here in 'Hunted', someone who can elicit sympathy. I look forward to seeing a lot more of him.

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