Danish director Thomas Vinterberg garnered widespread international acclaim in the mid-1990s with his debut feature film Festen (The Celebration, 1998), an unsettling, naturalistic drama exposing a dysfunctional upper-class Danish family with a shocking secret. Vinterberg’s first film was also the inaugural work of the Dogme 95 movement, adhering to a filmmaking manifesto he had produced with habitual provocateur Lars von Trier. After subsequent underwhelming projects, Vinterberg returns in competition at this year’s 65th Cannes Film Festival with latest film The Hunt (Jagten, 2012).
Festen undoubtedly remains the highlight of Vinterberg’s career to date. His consequent first foray into Hollywood filmmaking with romantic sci-fi flick It’s All About Love (2003), starring Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes and Sean Penn, was universally panned, and the following Brechtian detachment of Dear Wendy (2005) was deemed stylistically interesting but not entirely effective. Despite such relative flops however, his last film, 2010’s Submarino (2010), revisited the issue of screwed-up familial relationships and marked something of a return to form for the director.
The Hunt sees Vinterberg team up with fellow Dane Mads Mikkelsen, perhaps best known to UK audiences as Bond villain Le Chiffre in Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale (2006), and recently received positive reviews at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival for his performance in the lavish period drama A Royal Affair (2012) (read our review here). Vinterberg favourite Thomas Bo Larsen will also feature, although his exact role is still unclear.
In The Hunt, Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a school teacher who has recently been through a traumatic divorce. Lucas is just starting to get his life back on track with a new girlfriend, new job and by tentatively re-establishing a relationship with his teenage son Marcus, when he is falsely accused of abusing a young girl. The lie spreads quickly and aggressively through the small, Danish town where he resides, and it soon whips the tight-knit community into a state of hysteria, forcing Lucas to fight not only for his reputation, but also his life.
Although the quality of Vinterberg’s previous work has been inconsistent, The Hunt looks extremely promising. With an intriguing and powerful central premise and a director who has shown that he capable of tackling such controversial, taboo subject matter, Vinterberg has the potential here to repeat his early success with Festen.
The 65th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 16-27 May, 2012. For more of our Cannes 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.