The Hunt (2012) – This is my Rifle, This is my Gun… Both Make Me Superior to Women.

TH1Despite a small budget and funding secured from about half a dozen Scandinavian film funds, The Hunt premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival where it was the first Danish film to make it into the competition for about 14 years. Well-received by judges and critics alike, the film landed a prize for its leading man and then went on to secure Best Foreign Language Film nominations at both the Oscars and Golden Globes. The reason for this warm reception is that the man responsible for directing it has pointedly refused to claim responsibility for his best-known film. The man in question is Thomas Vinterberg and the film in question is Festen, the first film created under the strictures of the radical Dogme 95 filmmaking manifesto that also launched the career of Lars von Trier.

Shot entirely on location with hand-held cameras and without props, sets or lighting, Festen told of a disastrous birthday celebration at which a family patriarch is accused of having molested two of his own children. Far from shutting the matter down, the family’s inevitable denial of the patriarch’s guilt only serves to fan the flames of anger and resentment until years of distrust explode in a fireball of violence and madness that consumes what is left of the family’s loyalty and trust. I mention Festen not only because it is easily Vinterberg’s best-known film, but also because it shares a good number of themes and ideas with The Hunt. However, while Festen is an unashamedly youthful film that draws on feelings of betrayal and confusion and hurls them into the face of a complacent older generation, The Hunt draws on a decidedly more traditional emotional palette including smug moral certitude and emotional restraint. The difference between to the two films is so stark that it is tempting to view The Hunt as the result of an aging Vinterberg having chosen to shift his sympathies from angry accuser to vilified accused but a more straightforward reading of this film would be to view The Hunt as a celebration of patriarchal values and women who know when to keep their cunt mouths shut.

 

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A Hijacking (2011) – Don’t Look, Don’t Cry

AHijackingAs DVD box sets and online streaming slowly replace broadcast TV as primary delivery systems for televised drama, industry people have begun to cast about for the next great thing to fill middle-class evenings. After the Golden Age of American TV came the discovery of gritty French crime dramas such as the magnificent Spiral, the abortive popularisation of Italian dramas such as Inspector Montalban and the increasingly potent and influential Nordic gold rush including The Killing, The Bridge and Those Who Kill. Less showy but more substantial than many of these post-Wire police procedurals is Adam Price’s Borgen, a political drama about the first female Danish Prime Minister that eschews the infantile patriotic sentimentality of Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing in favour of real political engagement with Denmark’s many social and political problems. Given the success of Borgen and ‘Nordic Noir’, it is hardly surprising that the Danish film industry should attempt to use the visibility of Danish TV to help promote their national cinema. Aside from being written and directed by one of Borgen’s writers, Tobias Lindholm’s A Hijacking (Kapringen) is so filled with Borgen cast members that I suspect Lindholm may have driven up to the set in a large van and kidnapped them using promises of gravlax and crispbread.

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