02 January 2016

On Believing Falsehoods

In Thomas Vinterberg's Jagten (The Hunt), when testimonies conflict and instability is rampant, all crashes down upon the protagonist, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), who must seemingly impossibly prove his innocence to his tightly knit community while protecting his already damaged personal relationships.

Lucas, an ordinary kindergarten teacher in a small Danish town, is quickly blindsided by a false testimony rooted in the shady memory of his student Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), when she hints to his coworker Grethe (Susse Wold) at the potentiality of sexual assault. Trusting her contradictions to be products of denial, the kindergarten staff fires Lucas, and the entire town begins to reject Lucas as an unwelcome pedophile. His friendships, romance, and safety vanish.

Following his townwide ostracism, Lucas mostly stays within his own home, only grasping hints at any hearsay of the ongoing hearing. Ultimately, after his girlfriend Nadja (Alexandra Rapaport) leaves him, his son (Lasse Fogelstrøm) gets threatened, and his dog Fanny is murdered, the police acquit him of all charges, after recognizing the consistent faults and holes in the children's testimonies as evidence of their unverifiability, leaving Lucas only to attempt to piece together the broken fragments of his lost life.

Jagten is a monument to the immense gravity of false accusations of sexual assault, illustrating the sheer chaos of an innocent man's life after a single lie. And, as the ending further evidences, after an incident like this occurs, the scars engraved in an innocent person's life never genuinely fade away, but instead, only become glazed over in a layer of numbness, easily shaken off by a single shot.

Rather than embodying a challenge to victims of sexual assault who come forward with their stories, Jagten is merely an illustration of the painful repercussions of dramatic falsehoods on the life of someone who altogether avoided wrong.

Ultimately, Jagten is a push for truth in a world of instability, a hope for empathy when mistrust is so easy, and we must only treat it with care.

A disheveled Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) looks backwards, his fate in the town still in shreds.
Image Courtesy of Nordisk Film

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