Die Jagd (2013): Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hassing. This film is not rated. Running Time: 120 Minutes
Rating: 2/4 Stars
After a considerable amount of thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that Die Jagd is not a bad film. But neither is it a good one. I don’t like it (and can’t recommend it) mostly because I spent most of its running time trying to contain my simmering resentment of both every character on the screen and of the film itself for insulting my intelligence. But on the other hand, at least the film evinced a reaction from me, even if it probably wasn’t the one the director wanted. And I do get what the film WANTED to do. I just don’t think it succeeded.
Die Jagd is a Swedish film about paranoia. Specifically, the paranoia of a society that, worried about very real problems, goes a step too far and is willing to suspect and even openly persecute everyone and anyone accused of wrongdoing (even when there’s no proof). The main character (I don’t remember his name, because he bored me- we’ll call him Lance) is middle-aged and recently divorced. However, he seems to have a very positive relationship with his son, has found a new job working at a kindergarten, and even has a new girlfriend.
However, things start to go south when the daughter of his best friend (who may be abused? Or have a perverted brother? The movie’s too poorly written to tell) decides she’s in love with Lance. However, when he tells her she shouldn’t kiss him, she tells the head principle of the school that Lance showed her his “tail” (roughly translated). The principle, obviously, immediately accepts this as Gospel Truth, and suspends Lance’s employment at the school. She then informs the police, who in turn inform the parents that a child has been abused and that other children may have been abused as well, resulting in a string of further allegations against poor old Lance. Soon, everyone in town believes that Lance is a child abuser, and he is increasingly shunned by all but a handful of his friends as he struggles to maintain his sanity in an increasingly insane world.
Die Jagd ultimately shoots itself in the foot by committing the double sin of having both a lackluster story (The Crucible tackled social paranoia way better) and furiously uninteresting characters. Lance puts in a laudable performance, and is indeed a sympathetic lead, but every other character ranges from flat and one-note to blitheringly stupid. The girl who starts the whole mess never comes across as human, mumbling in an expressionless monotone throughout the entire film. The scene where she first tells the principle she's been abused takes place at night, with the girl's face obscured by shadows- I honestly would not have flinched had she sprouted devil horns by the end. Top prize, however, has to go to the principle, whose melodramatic reactions to a psychologist’s questioning of the child will probably (hopefully) be the worst acting I see this year.
It’s massive, massive flaws aside, I can’t really work up that much anger over Die Jagd. I get what it’s trying to do- realistically portray the dangers of paranoia going too far. At the end of film, you are genuinely unsure whether or not Lance will be murdered by the rest of the town, even though his innocence has been proven time and again. And when seen from that angle, Die Jagd does hold up well- it’s very, very realistic, to the point that it could easily be a documentary about a real case of someone falsely accused and being cast out of society. And it’s the degree to which Die Jagd feels like a reenactment of reality that saves the film from its own terribly-written characters. However, as I have pointed out before, realism does necessarily a good film make.