Monday, January 20, 2014

Review of The Hunt, Oscar Nominated Foreign Language Film


One might think that Netflix may not be that useful for the home viewer to make their own decision about who the winner should be. Netflix would seem even less useful, as a lot of nominees, if they are not still in the theaters, are only available on DVD. There is however one category where you can use Netflix streaming (almost) exclusively to decide what the best film is (more on that later this week). Jagten (The Hunt) (2012), now on streaming, has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. (The 2012 date can seem confusing, but I guess it qualifies for the Oscars because the 2012 is from a festival, and it was released in Denmark in January 2013).
Thomas Vinterberg wrote and directed this film. You may know him from writing and directing the Dogma film Festen (1998), which was criminally ignored by the Oscars that year, but received plenty of other awards and recognition. It also has earned its place at #222 on IMDB’s Top 250. Jagten is like a companion piece to Festen, looking at the flip side of sexual abuse, and how it affects someone who is falsely accused. VInterberg masterfully portrayed the hurt and suffering of a sordid and scandalous family secret in Festen; you felt the protagonist’s pain, delighted in the cathartic pleasure of bringing the evil in the family out into the light, and were shocked by the stubbornness of the family to see the truth. It presented the epitome of a family gathering gone wrong; we’ve all experienced an uncomfortable dinner, but not quite like that.
Jagten (The Hunt) taps into similar emotions just as effectively. People are just as stubborn as in Festen, and as ugly. Mads Mikkelsen (who seems to be in almost every other foreign movie on Netflix streaming) is perfect in the lead role, and I was also impressed by Lasse Fogelstrom, his son who believes his father is innocent. Jagten is a film to be experienced like Festen, so I won’t spend too much time discussing plot points. The synopsis on IMDB tells you all you need to know so I include it here: “A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son’s custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.” Just like Vinterberg’s previous masterpiece, the lie revolves around child abuse. Although this film covers some of the same emotional terrain as Prisoners (2013), it is not ambiguous in the innocence or guilt of the accused, and while Prisoners indulged in the vigilante impulse in order to question it, Jagten leaves no question about the barbarity and ugliness when a town lets emotion blind them to reason and rationality.
You will be angry, but largely sympathetic to most of the characters (the accuser’s father, for example). The ending of the film at first seem to not fit the rest of the film, and be uncharacteristic of VInterberg, and frankly unrealistic. But the last minute is perfect, and tempers the hopefulness that precedes it with a large dose of reality- that once allegations are out there, they never really disappear.
My IMDB Rating: 9/10
My Netflix Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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