Vinterberg hunts for more treasure
Vinterberg hunts for more treasure

Together with Lars von Trier, Thomas Vinterberg was responsible for the creation of the Dogme movement.

At an early age the handsome Dane became a sensation for the first Dogme film, The Celebration (1998), probably the best of the movies that were made with the famous pared-down set of rules.

When he tried to work in English, however, the apocalyptic Manhattan-set It's All About Love (2003) was a dud, even if he had Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes and Sean Penn as his leads.

Now the 43-year-old has made a huge comeback with The Hunt, another dark brooding Danish drama, which won Mads Mikkelsen the best actor prize at Cannes and more recently garnered Vinterberg the screenwriting award together with Tobias Linsholm at the European Film Awards.

"Denmark is very small, claustrophobic and clean but somehow when I make this very small movie in a Danish kindergarten in bad weather it's where people pay attention to the work," Vinterberg notes wryly. "I'm now again being offered films from abroad that are written by someone else and though I'm extremely attracted to that, at the same time it feels less important."

Interestingly The Hunt mines the same paedophilia theme as The Celebration, though takes a vastly different angle.

While in The Celebration the rigours of a family wedding unearth incest between father and son, in The Hunt Mikkelsen's Lucas, a teacher in a small village school, is the victim of a witch-hunt after fellow teachers and village folk falsely accuse him of molesting a kindergarten pupil.

"Initially I got so provoked by the screenplay but reading it again and talking to Thomas, we decided that as a civilised man Lucas wants to treat the matter in a civilised way," Mikkelsen, recalls. "Still, how far can he go before he explodes? That was the big question.

"Lucas is up against irrational emotions and it's like he's in a Kafka novel. A lot of people ask why he isn't reacting but the problem is, who should he hit?

"Everybody is doing it out of love, there is nobody to hit, there is nobody to be angry at. I can't hit my friend. I can't hit the girl in the kindergarten. So it's super frustrating."

The film examines the mores of modern society where the rules have become a little inflexible, he says.

"We are not allowed to take a photo of our little son in the swimming pool because there are other kids in there.

"Obviously people are making these rules because they love their kids but there has to be a balance in there somewhere - and we're having a hard time finding it.

"Of course, there are a lot of sick people in the world and a lot of kids who are not telling a lie. It's not a story about trying to defend the man who is wrongly accused.

"We are trying to tell a story about how big, big love can become big, big fear and implode society."

Vinterberg explains: "We actually wanted to make a story about love, about fatherhood, about the loss of innocence of some kind.

"I grew up in a commune in the 70s and I was surrounded by genitals.

"This was my upbringing and it was fine. When grown-ups wanted to show love to children they touched in a non-sexual manner.

"We've lost all that and there is a good reason. A lot of children suffer from child abuse and we cannot forget that but still we lost something and I think this village similarly loses something."

With The Hunt, Vinterberg says, it was vital that the audience experienced the story through Lucas' eyes.

"I didn't want there to be any doubts regarding his innocence because then we couldn't devote ourselves to him," he says. "I wanted to go on a journey with him and go through this exact experience knowing that I had done the opposite 14 years ago.

"It's interesting to do the antithesis and I guess the reality is somewhere in between those movies. The problem here is that audiences are trained to be suspicious, so every time we had an angle that could make Mads look like a child molester we had to change it."

Of course, casting one of cinema's most sympathetic actors also helps.


The West Australian

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