The Hunt: A Reflection on Denmark’s History

This essay on Danish film The Hunt was written for World Cinema.

By Kitty Williams

The Hunt is a 2013 Danish film directed by Thomas Vinterberg, one of the fathers of Dogme 95. Dogme 95 was a short-lived film movement characterized by realism in every sense of the word. The film’s theme is also very much a part of Denmark’s reality. The film is a powerful portrayal of the severe damage an accusation of sexual abuse can do to a person. Lucas works at a day care for young children and is falsely accused of sexually abusing a young girl who happens to be the daughter of his best friend. Unfortunately, this is too often a reality in Denmark.

Dogme 95 is a film movement that was created by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, the director of The Hunt, in 1995. Films considered to be part of the Dogme 95 movement are required to follow a strict set of guidelines. There are ten guidelines, all of which stress the importance of maintaining reality. Though it does not abide by every rule, The Hunt holds onto some of the practices of Dogme 95. There are to be no special effects; a rule adhered to by The Hunt. The film is very visually simple, with shots of the houses, streets, and people of Denmark. The most visually exciting shots are of the colorful forests the hunted animals call home.

Dogme 95 also requires that a film is in color and does not have any non-diegetic music. The Hunt is in color, but it does include music. Music’s presence is so scarce, though, that it is hardly noticeable. Many scenes are plagued by silence, including the scene where Lucas walks around, bleeding from having been hit multiple times. His friends see him but stay away, waiting for him to leave. We see him continue to walk alone, limping, in complete silence. Ironically, another rule of Dogme 95 is that the director goes unlisted in the credits. The director of The Hunt (and the creator of this rule) is listed at the end of the film: Thomas Vintergberg.

The realism of the film extends into the themes that carry throughout. Sexual abuse is a serious topic and is at the center of the film. The main character, Lucas, is falsely accused of sexually abusing one of the children he takes care of at the day care. Unfortunately, Denmark has a history of sexual abuse cases. The number of reported cases was on the rise in 1997. As a result, Denmark began focusing on this issue and was very open with the public about the problem. One famous case, the “Tønder case,” put a spotlight on the issue. This case revealed that a man had been prostituting his daughter to many men. More cases of sexual abuse were found in the following years. Similarly, in the film after all the families with children at the day-care were notified of the accusation, they began looking for the warning signs in their children. Some parents saw symptoms where there weren’t any.

Films are a reflection of the society we live in. The Hunt, on the surface, is about a man who struggles to continue on with his ordinary life after being accused of sexually abusing a young girl from the day care he works at. Taking a deeper look, it is clear that this film is tackling the larger issues of Denmark’s society, still under the influence of the Dogme 95 film movement that was created by the director of the film alongside Lars von Trier.

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