“It is 14 years since Thomas Vinterberg burst into view with his excoriating family drama Festen, which launched the minimalist Dogme movement and became a much-talked-about cultural phenomenon on its own account,” begins the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw. “After that, he appeared to lose his touch, and his admirers wondered if he could recover that early mastery (although I was a fan of his 2010 film Submarino). Well, Vinterberg really has come storming back with this new movie, easily his best since Festen, and a reminder of his superb gift for unsettling collective drama: it is forthright, powerful, composed and directed with clarity and overwhelming force, yet capable of great subtlety and nuance.”
At the AV Club, Mike D’Angelo disagrees, writing that “though it looks deceptively charming at the outset, as a kindergarten teacher played by Mads Mikkelsen (the villain in Casino Royale) graciously, expertly deflects the harmless crush of one little girl, the daughter of his best friend (Thomas Bo Larsen). Very small children don’t always understand the import of what they say, however, and a moment of passing anger at having a gift returned inspires this adorable moppet to inadvertently accuse Mikkelsen of sexual abuse. Her tentative attempts to retract the statement (‘I said something silly, he didn’t do anything’) fall on predictably deaf ears, and Mikkelsen instantly becomes the town pariah, cold-cocked while shopping at the local market and ducking rocks thrown through his windows at home…. The Hunt is a ‘problem picture’ in which the problem feels neither urgent nor especially new.”
“The problems arise from small but significant plot developments,” notes Geoff Andrew in Time Out London: “would Lucas’s boss really assume he’s guilty quite so quickly? Why does no one call in the police or a doctor to help when things turn very nasty? These questions inevitably diminish the film’s deeper impact, as do certain painfully predictable twists…. Still, Vinterberg, his cast and cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen manage to sustain a pleasingly edgy mood, making at least for intelligent, suspenseful entertainment.”
“The film is fundamentally about the speed at which lies, gossip and innuendo can become cemented as fact in public opinion,” writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter, “and about the disturbing power of suggestion on young minds. But it’s also about the fragile nature of trust in communities and among friends, particularly men. It shows how easily masculine bonds stretching back years can be broken and how willingly a band of brothers can betray one of its own.”
“Early plotting here is fast, so fast that it can sometimes feel false,” writes Fionnuala Halligan in Screen. “But any initial doubts that this might prove to be simply a beautifully-crafted TV-movie are expertly laid waste as The Hunt, propelled by Mads Mikkelsen in an everyman role, hits home—and hits hard.”
“The Hunt touches on a subject explored in more stomach-churning fashion by the recent French pic Guilty, as well as by Danish helmer Jacob Thuesen’s The Accused (2005),” notes Boyd van Hoeij in Variety. “Vinterberg wisely sticks to the POV of the falsely accused lead throughout…. Known for his often icy and violent characters, Mikkelsen impresses here as a warm-hearted man who finds himself caught up in a situation way beyond his control.”
“From Mads Mikkelsen to the young Annika Wedderkop who plays Klara, via Thomas Bo Larssen as Lucas’ best friend, all the roles are solidly written, played, and directed,” writes Domenico La Porta at Cineuropa. “The Hunt is a tense film, with piercing scenes such as the climax when Lucas’ son visits the supposed victim’s family and the situation derails into a flash of traumatic violence…. In his best film since Festen, Vinterberg again, but in a very different way, highlights social fractures that never completely heal.”
For the Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin, The Hunt is “quite the best thing I have seen at the festival so far.”
Updates, 5/22: “In one sense, The Hunt is Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, re-set for our era of fears (real and imagined) of pedophilia,” writes Robert Koehler at Filmjourney. “But it’s also a case of a director who, since the vastly overrated The Celebration, has suggested the promise of making films generated by vital dramatic ideas, failed on that promise over the past decade, and yet now may have finally found his focus.”
Domenico La Porta interviews Vinterberg for Cineuropa.
Updates, 5/26: “Although handsomely shot and well acted, The Hunt rarely rises above film-of-the-week obviousness,” writes James Quandt for the National Post. “When the teacher’s son casually remarks that their dog has not returned, one knows to fear for the poor animal’s fate. Vinterberg offers a perhaps inadvertent critique of his country’s social do-gooderism in his sharp-eyed portrait of the kindergarten’s matronly overseer, who can’t stop warning the world about the depraved one in their midst.”
“Anchored by an impressively modulated, admirably restrained performance from Mads Mikkelsen (best known for his work with Nicolas Winding Refn), The Hunt is otherwise an indecisive, weak-kneed film,” finds Budd Wilkins at the House Next Door.
Anna Tatarksa interviews Vinterberg for Slant.
Update, 5/27: Mikkelsen’s won the Prix d’interpretation masculine (Best Actor).
Update, 5/30: Magnolia Pictures has picked up US rights, reports indieWIRE‘s Peter Knegt.