‘The Hunt’ examines the persistence of beliefs

“The Hunt” (“Jagten”) (2012 production, 2013 release). Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Anne Louise Hassing, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrøm, Susse Wold, Lars Ranthe, Alexandra Rapaport, Sebastian Bull Sarning, Bjarne Henriksen. Director: Thomas Vinterberg. Screenplay: Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg. Web site. Trailer.

In an age when so many aspects of life seem so inherently transient, it’s hard to fathom how some can persist with dogged determination. This can be particularly maddening when it comes to those we’d rather rid ourselves of, yet they’re almost always the ones that endure the longest. When such circumstances arise, there’s usually some kind of life lesson involved, one that we’d be wise to address, a point driven home in a poignant drama from Denmark, “The Hunt” (“Jagten”), now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Putting one’s life back together after a domestic upheaval can be quite a daunting challenge. Just ask Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a mild-mannered kindergarten classroom aide who’s seeking to make a fresh start after a nasty divorce. The newly single father endeavors to remain upbeat, despite an ongoing series of heated telephone exchanges with his ex-wife over such matters as living arrangements for their teenage son, Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrøm).

But life does have its compensations, too. Lucas revels in the camaraderie of his friends, a band of jovial huntsmen who routinely scout the woods for adventure and regularly share lots of laughs (not to mention copious amounts of food and drink). He also enjoys his job, the company of his co-workers and the fun-loving children he cares for, particularly Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), the young, doe-eyed daughter of his best friends, Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Agnes (Anne Louise Hassing). Even the prospect of a new romance looms with one of his colleagues, Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport).

However, no sooner do circumstances begin to look up when Lucas’s world comes crashing back down on him. A passing comment from one of his students erupts into an accusation of sexual abuse. The charge is utterly false, but the insinuation quickly escalates into a full-blown crisis. Beginning with an internal investigation that rapidly morphs into an all-out witch hunt, Lucas is soon ostracized, falling afoul of the school’s principal, Grethe (Susse Wold), as well as his friends, his colleagues and the community at large. Even relations with Nadja and Marcus are strained. Before long, Lucas is in the fight of his life. The question is, can he survive it?

Beliefs, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through the conscious creation process, can be notoriously stubborn conceptions at times. And, to a certain degree, they almost have to be to be powerful enough to materialize the elements that make up physical existence, a state of being characterized by persistent, densely constituted elements. However, there are occasions when beliefs can hang on so steadfastly that they seemingly outlast their usefulness, all of which goes to show just how potent they truly are. Indeed, they must be rather robust if they can successfully withstand efforts aimed at their dissolution or alteration.

Lucas discovers this for himself during the unfolding of his nightmarish ordeal. The prevailing beliefs associated with his alleged guilt hang on with an incredible resiliency, almost to the point of a tenacious vengeance. Even when it becomes obvious that the charges leveled against him lack merit, he’s still subjected to the scorn and ridicule of others, including those who have long supported him. No matter how unfairly he’s treated, he’s unable to escape the intense scrutiny and derision relentlessly inflicted upon him.

How do such beliefs become so entrenched? In many instances, they can become securely anchored when they receive widespread backing, the kind that arises from the input of the mass consciousness. Such collective support can be quite formidable, too, constantly reinforcing the beliefs in question and growing ever stronger with each new voice that joins the chorus of ratification.

What’s more, beliefs can become further strengthened when related notions lend their support. For instance, Lucas is presumed guilty in large part because of a prevailing belief among his peers and in the community at large that children never lie, that their innate innocence prevents them from fibbing, especially when it comes to matters they’re unlikely to understand, such as sexuality. It never occurs to any of them that their little ones might be capable making things up, that their imaginations might be running wild or that they simply could be repeating something they overheard from another source, all with no regard for or awareness of the fallout of their actions. By investing unquestioningly in such an idea, the accusers reinforce their suspicions, making it even more difficult for the defendant to clear his name.

Of course, one also can’t help but wonder why Lucas would draw such circumstances into his reality. After all, he seems to have suffered enough in recent months, so why would he attract an even greater hardship like this, one that threatens to topple all of the meaningful foundations of his life? Interestingly enough, the answer to that question may have absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter of the charges leveled against him.

As is abundantly apparent at the film’s outset, Lucas is a very nurturing soul. For starters, he’s a very loving father who would do virtually anything for his son. What’s more, he’s great with the kids at school, especially Klara, whose home life can be rather trying at times, especially when her parents argue and her father drinks. Lucas obviously feels for her and does what he can to assuage her sorrow.

At the same time, though, Lucas has a very different side, one that surfaces when he goes hunting. His loving, nurturing self seemingly evaporates as he quietly but earnestly stalks his prey, and he strikes without hesitation when the opportunity presents itself. Indeed, he has no qualms about bagging a deer while out on one of his walks in the woods.

So, when accusations of sexual abuse are leveled against Lucas, he’s suddenly exposed, quickly becoming just like one of the vulnerable animals he pursues in the forest. The hunter thus becomes the hunted, with the tracker getting an ample taste of his own very bitter medicine. In this way, Lucas comes to experience what all conscious creators invariably do – the idea that our outer world mirrors our inner thoughts in a metaphorical, almost poetic way. Of course, the impact of this is lost if it goes unnoticed, so it would behoove the protagonist to pay attention to what’s going on if he truly wants to understand the lesson behind such a materialization.

The kind of power employed and unleashed in a scenario like this is quite substantial, to say the least. Because of that, it’s incumbent upon us to realize what forces we wield as conscious creators. This is particularly true for Lucas’s accusers – all of them – for their beliefs, actions and creations carry consequences, perhaps including wide-ranging ramifications far greater than they may initially realize. Such circumstances underscore the responsibility that comes with the manifestation process, as well as the pitfalls that can arise when we practice un-conscious creation or creation by default, an approach to the materialization process that places outcomes over consequences. This can be disastrous when intentions aimed at inflicting harm (or sometimes even just seeking “justice”) are involved. But, by contrast, it can also be miraculous when the mix of manifesting beliefs is infused with powerful and positive components, such as the influence of forgiveness. To be sure, wonders can indeed be worked when the right belief formula is put to use.

“The Hunt” is an excellent, thoughtful meditation on the power and persistence of beliefs. The film is beautifully photographed and features superb performances, particularly those turned in by Mikkelsen, Wedderkopp and Larsen. Its many fine attributes have been widely recognized, too. The picture has earned nominations as best foreign language film in the Golden Globe, Critics Choice, Independent Spirit and Academy Award competitions. In addition, it was a Palme d’Or nominee at the Cannes Film Festival, where it also took home best actor honors, as well as the Festival’s Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the Vulcain Prize for outstanding cinematography.

When we engage in acts of creation, we may manifest materializations that are ever so fleeting or that persist indefinitely. To that end, then, we should be careful about what we seek to produce, especially if we do so without due regard for the consequences or life lessons that may be associated with the undertaking. By doing so, we could end up victims of our own conceptions, trapped and unable to release ourselves from our own snares. “The Hunt” focuses on these issues with a sharpness even greater than what can be found through the sight of a rifle scope, and the clarity it affords reveals a much-coveted target. But, when we at last take aim, we’d better be careful when we pull the trigger.

Copyright © 2014, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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