January 20, 2015 Leave a comment
Innocent until proven guilty is supposed to be the hallmark of the criminal justice system. The prosecution has to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – that the accused actually committed the crime that he or she is accused of. At least that’s the theory.
The Hunt is a searing dramatic example of this basic failure. Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre from Casino Royale, Hannibal from the excellent television show…Hannibal) is a quiet, friendly kindergarten teacher named Lucas. The kids love him and he has strong support from his community and wide group of friends. But despite a history of being a well-liked member of society, his life unravels because of a horrible accusation. This isn’t a courtroom movie – there is no trial, and the only scene that takes place before a judge happens offscreen. But the community determines that Lucas is guilty without any proof – and that’s that.
This is a frustrating film. In a good way. Lucas is powerless to stop public opinion. He becomes toxic and is treated as a persona non grata. He is shunned by his friends. And you can’t help but sympathize and be furious about the situation.
The film is very clear that Lucas is not guilty of what he has been accused of. The most aggravating scene in the film is when the kindergarten principal and her friend/associate – I think he’s a social worker – ask the little girl what happened with Lucas. The audience knows nothing happened; the little girl knows nothing happened; the adults suspect something happened, but don’t know what. And the “confession” is a series of suggestive questions that the little girl only answers by nodding her head because she thinks that’s what the adults want to hear while she just wants to go outside and play. And with that, Lucas’ fate is sealed.
The setting of the film is important. Lucas lives in a small town where everyone knows him. He seems like a good guy, perhaps a little quiet, but nothing out of the ordinary. The community knows that he has an ex-wife, and is going through a custody battle with her. He shops at the same stores, and goes hunting with many of the town’s men. But despite their familiarity with Lucas and his good nature, he’s instantly branded an outcast without a second thought. The townsfolk exact their retribution in cruel, violent ways, and you wouldn’t be wrong in wondering who the real the monsters of the film are.
Why is it that we can constantly criticize the government for its failings and stupidity, but when that same government accuses a citizen of a crime we blindly accept it’s correct without a second thought? It’s a good question, and one that watching The Hunt brought to my mind.