A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg, 2012)

Thomas Vinterberg and his co-screenwriter, Tobias Lindholm, load so much misery on the protagonist of The Hunt that they find themselves in a bind: How do you resolve a plot that inflicts so much suffering on an innocent man without resorting to either a saccharine happy ending or a depressingly cataclysmic one? When Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a man in his 40s who teaches in the kindergarten of a small Danish village, is accused by one of the children of exposing himself to her, his life goes to hell. He loses his job and his friends, including his girlfriend, and ruins his chances of a more favorable custody agreement with his ex-wife. And even after the authorities find that there is no evidence to substantiate the little girl's charge, he is still harassed by his neighbors and even denied service at the local grocery store. It's a superb part for Mikkelsen, whose death's-head cheekbones naturally made him the right choice as the most recent incarnation of Hannibal Lecter on TV's Hannibal, but who proves in this film that he can play a sympathetic victim as well as a psychotic villain. But the film depends equally on the performances of Susse Wold as Grethe, the principal of the kindergarten; Thomas Bo Larsen as Theo, the father of the little girl; Lasse Fogelstrøm as Lucas's teenage son, Marcus; and especially the very young Annika Wedderkopp as Klara, Lucas's accuser. The suspicions directed at Lucas gain credibility from the fact that he's an anomaly in the somewhat macho culture of the village: Well into middle age, he is the only male teacher in the kindergarten -- it was apparently the only available teaching job after the school he once taught at closed. Klara is drawn to him as a kind of father figure: Her parents spend much time fighting with each other. Somewhat withdrawn, she has a childish ritual of never stepping on the lines in the sidewalk, and she gets lost because she looks at her feet and not where she's going. Lucas finds her one day and gets her home safely, and promises her that she can come to his house and play with his dog, Fanny. But Klara develops a kind of crush on Lucas, and when she gives him a present and tries to kiss him on the lips, he is forced to establish some limits. Hurt by the rejection, Klara tells the principal that she doesn't like Lucas because he's a man and has a penis. The principal unfortunately takes her remark too seriously and pursues the matter, whereupon Klara remembers a pornographic image that her older brother had shown her on his phone and describes it as if it were Lucas's penis. The principal's amateurish investigation feeds parental hysteria which ultimately results in other children coming forward to accuse Lucas. The film recalls the widespread incidents of sexual abuse accusations that took place particularly in the 1980s, as in the notorious McMartin preschool case in Los Angeles. Fortunately, Vinterberg and Lindholm keep the larger issues in the background as they concentrate on its effect on Lucas, his family, and his friends. The end of the film is, however, something of a muddle: Lucas's life has returned to normal, as far as we can see, as he celebrates Marcus's coming of age by letting the boy join a deer hunt. Only in the concluding sequence do we get a suggestion that the incident will never be fully resolved.

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