“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” -Bertrand Russell
The opening scene of Thomas Vinterbergs (2014 Best Foreign Language Oscar nominated) film encapsulates the overall theme of the film in a subtle but powerful way. We are introduced to Lucas a character who appears uncomfortable while everyone around him is laughing and having a great time. None of this is said outright, it's told through our main characters eyes and posture. His smiles are forced and his body language conveys how anxious this particular group of men make him feel. We have been introduced to a man who is so guarded with his “friends” he jumps in a lake with all his clothes on while his peers are naked. The following scene shows Lucas in a different light. He appears comfortable and more content with his surroundings. We see a different man. In those scenes he is with children. This is an effective way to set up our story. The dichotomy of our protagonist has been clearly laid out and the story is ready to unfold. We have a man going through a bitter divorce fighting for the custody of his child who has lost his teaching position and lives alone with his dog. A man who becomes the victim of a lie. The Hunt is both a character study and a study of society on a micro level. After watching the film I was thinking about capital punishment, the media and criminal justice in modern society. While this story is very small in its narrative scope, the subject matter reaches into and overlaps with all facets of societal existence.
This film is about mob mentality. How innocent lies can build momentum and crush the lives of the people in it's wake. The way we treat members of the swarm who show independence or unconventional behavior hasn't changed much since the beginning of human civilization. We view the unfamiliar with fear and treat them as interlopers. Most of us will not admit to how truly unevolved our reactions to these people are. Finding the truth is rarely our top priority when we have the taste of vengeance on our salivating tongues.
Don't watch the trailer (below). I've intentionally avoided discussing most the specific details of this movie. The less you know about this film when you see it the better. We are smack in the middle of summer movie season and while I enjoy giant monsters, robots and mutants crushing national landmarks it was refreshing to spend two hours with an adult film. PS- This film is in no way refreshing. It is a brutal self portrait we should all experience. The Hunt is currently streaming on Netflix and available on VOD