The Hunt: a haunting tale of false child abuse allegations
Director Thomas Vinterberg
This Danish film is chillingly similar in details to the Christchurch Civic Creche case in which Peter Ellis was accused of child sex abuse.
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg, who has also written the script with Tobias Lindholm, the film is set in a small Danish village where Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) works in the local creche.
He is accused of sex abuse after one of the children, the daughter of his best friend, says something to the creche director. The allegations she makes are born of ambivalent feelings she has for Lucas, who has tried to distance himself as regards him as an alternative father figure.
An eerie level of tension is created because even though we know he is innocent he exhibits behaviours which could be indicators of psychological issues. That he is estranged from his wife and seems to be something of an outsider adds to this unease.
The well meaning creche staff and community leaders rush to judgment, and even when the young girl admits she was not telling the truth they keep hounding Lucas.
We are constantly trying to understand various members of the community and the strangely conservative society in which Lucas lives. His friends and girlfriend begin to question the truth.
Even when reconciliation appears to have happened, Lucas and the viewer are left with an uneasy feeling of what the future holds.
It is a quiet work in which the sense of foreboding is always distant but always there and the shocks, when they come, are disturbing.
The whole notion of witch hunts is brought vividly alive as we watch the inexorable devastation it brings to the community and Lucas, exposing the realities of conservative societies which can so easyily to be turned to condemnation, oppression and vigilantism.
Mikkelsen gives a brilliant performance, displaying a range of emotional and psychological states. We are never sure whether he is totally sane, slightly unhinged or suffering from a major disorder.