(On Cable TV, March 2015) Most films are maddening because they fail, but The Hunt is infuriating on purpose. It tells, in painful details, what happens in a small Danish community when a kind and quiet man is falsely accused of exposing himself to a child. The ostracism and violence that follows feels all-too-real, as is the protagonist’s decent in a kind of madness when everyone leagues against him. Mads Mikkelsen is splendid in the lead role, his good social standing being destroyed scene after scene as other decide to make an example out of him. For the viewer, there’s real frustration in seeing a small childish fib become bigger, emboldened by adults rushing to judgement. Under director Thomas Vinterberg’s clinical, down-to-Earth direction, the film is designed to make viewers grit their teeth and sigh helplessly at the screen. As a result, no one should be surprised to find that the film gets great reviews… but that few people would be willing to see it a second time.
(On DVD, September 2011) It would have been so easy to take the basic premise of this film and make a big schlocky over-the-top action movie out of it: After all, what better than two distinctive assassins working together to kill Nazis during occupied WW2 Denmark to inspire gunfights, car chases and explosions? In fact, for short moments, it’s possible to mistake Flammen & Citronen for such an action movie. There’s gunplay, car chases and maybe an explosion or two. But make no mistake: As it advances, the film gets grimmer and grimmer, as it becomes obvious that the resistance is being exploited, that the Nazis may not all be worth a bullet in the head, and as the two lead characters fall in increasingly desperate circumstances. Sooner or later, their actions doom them to an inglorious end. Still, Flammen & Citronen does deliver in terms of entertainment, and the downbeat ending fits with the ambiguous thematic aspirations of the script. (It’s also faithful to the true story that inspired the film.) As a look at World War 2 from a different perspective than the Anglo-Saxon (or French) one, Flammen & Citronen is an entry on par to the Dutch Zwartboek / Black Book. (Even though Verhoeven’s film feels more polished, the pair makes for a splendid double feature.) The production values of the film as impressive, and the recreation of the era is believable. Thure Lindhardt and Mads Mikkelsen are fine in the title roles, but WW2 cinephiles will have more fun spotting Christian Berkel in yet another Nazi role. Flammen & Citronen got practically no play in North America, but it’s a world-class piece of cinema; anyone who thinks that there’s nothing more to say about World War 2 may want to have a look at this one.