Danish child abuse film shocks Cannes crowds

Sun May 20, 2012 10:42am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Danish director Thomas Vinterberg burst on to the scene in Cannes in 1998 with the acclaimed "Festen", and critics say he is close to his best again this year with "The Hunt", a shocking take on child abuse and its impact on a small community.

Unlike some movies on the same theme, The Hunt leaves no doubt as to the main character's innocence.

Lucas, played by Danish star Mads Mikkelsen, is a nursery school teacher adored by the children and an integral part of a closely-knit circle of friends.

But when he is accused of sexual abuse by the young daughter of his best friend, smarting after he disciplines her for being over-affectionate, most of his colleagues and loved ones quickly assume the worst.

Events spiral out of control as the besmirched Lucas fights a lonely battle to prove his innocence and work his way back into a society that may never truly accept him again.

Rather than running away, he decides to confront his doubters, leading to tense standoffs and explosions of violence, invariably ending in humiliation.

Vinterberg portrays adults' desire to believe children and protect them at all costs.

"In Denmark we have a saying that children and drunk people always tell the truth," he told reporters ahead of the red carpet world premiere in Cannes on Sunday. "Yes, we are claiming that this is not always the truth."   Continued...

Director Thomas Vinterberg (L) and cast member Thomas Bo Larsen pose during a news conference for the film "Jagten", in competition at the 65th Cannes Film Festival, May 20, 2012. REUTERS/Yves Herman