The Hunt ★★★★★ MA
While the subject of paedophilia is confronting, it is inescapably relevant to our profession. In his latest film, The Hunt (Jagten), Danish director Thomas Vinterberg looks at the case of a male kindergarten teacher wrongfully accused of sexually molesting the little daughter of his best friend.
Estranged from the mother of his only child, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) lives alone in the small village where he grew up. Although his mother has custody of him, teenager Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom) wants to live with his father. Lucas’s best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen) is married to Agnes (Anne Louise Hassing) and they have two children. Theirs is a rather chaotic household and they regularly forget or run late to collect little Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) from the kindergarten where Lucas teaches. Meanwhile, their son and his friend are accessing pornographic images on the internet, which they stupidly show to Klara. Neglected by her own parents, Klara looks to Lucas for affection. He regularly walks her to or from school, leading her by the hand as she carefully avoids stepping on the cracks in the pavement.
When she throws her arms around him and kisses him on the lips, Lucas has to tell her that such behaviour is inappropriate. Miffed, the little girl tells Lucas’s boss, Grethe (Susse Wold) that she has seen the teacher’s “rod”. Obviously, Grethe has to investigate. Poorly managed interviews ensue and, even when little Klara tries to recant, she is told that she is simply repressing the memory. Soon all the children at the kindergarten are “remembering” similar experiences of abuse. In the midst of this hysteria, Marcus arrives unannounced to live with his father. Ostracised by former friends and even physically attacked, Lucas and Marcus must endure the hysterical hatred of almost the entire community.
The award-winning screenplay by Vinterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm explores how willing people are to jump to conclusions about an individual’s guilt or innocence. It also highlights how easily children can be “verballed” by adults, no matter how well-meaning those adults may be. Indeed, it queries the whole concept of repressed memory. A parallel is drawn with the Danish hunting tradition whereby teenage boys are allowed to hunt with their fathers when they turn 16. Thus, the rifle becomes a symbol of male maturity and responsibility. How easy it is to fire a shot, but what irreversible damage it can do! Sadly, it is all too easy to understand why we have so few young men braving entry into the teaching profession.
With its excellent production values, The Hunt has been nominated for a host of prestigious international awards, several of which it has won. At Cannes 2012, Vinterberg and his cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen won major awards, while Mikkelson won Best Actor for his superb performance as Lucas.
Broken ★★★★ MA
Based on the novel by Daniel Clay, Mark O’Rowe’s screenplay for Brokenreminds me somewhat of the British television series The Street. The Cunninghams, the Buckleys and the Oswalds live side by side in a suburban cul de sac. Archie Cunningham (Tim Roth) is sole parent of Jed (Bill Milner) and Skunk (Eloise Laurence). Archie is a devoted father and a good neighbour. He tells their au pair Kasia (Zana Marjanovic) that he would never take the children’s mother back, because he knows they would be afraid that she would leave again.
Skunk’s opinion that “everything always goes wrong” is reinforced by seeing her friend Rick Buckley (RobertEmms) brutally beaten by Mr Oswald(Rory Kinnear), widowed father of three teenage girls. Mr Oswald loves his daughters, but he is struggling to keep them on the straight and narrow. Based on a careless lie by 14-year-old Susan (Rosalie KoskyHensman), he accuses Rick of rape. Brain damaged after a near drowning as a child, Rick is so traumatised by the episode that he loses trust in everyone except Skunk. His parents (Denis Lawson and Clare Burt) are barely coping.
Skunk is close to her older brother Jeb, but she is disappointed in the unhealthy choices he makes, such as smoking and lusting after Susan Oswald. Over the summer break, Jeb and Skunk have turned a dilapidated caravan in the nearby wreckers’ yard into their secret retreat, which really impresses Skunk’s new boyfriend, smooth-talking Dillon (George Sargeant), who finds it “really cool”. Unfortunately, Dillon is only in town for the summer.
After the holidays end, Skunk is cheered up to find that Kasia’s exboyfriend, Mike (Cillian Murphy), is her teacher in her first year at high school. However, when he defends her from bullying by the Oswald sisters, the trio take their revenge in their accustomed manner... by making a false accusation that threatens to destroy his career.
On top of all this, Skunk has type 1 diabetes, which is drastically affected by all the drama happening around her. Eloise Laurance’s utterly natural performance in this pivotal role contributes majorly to the effectiveness of this film. Her Skunk is endearing, but definitely not cute. She and director Rufus Norris, director of photography Rob Hardy and actors Tim Roth, Rory Kinnear and Cillian Murphy have already been nominated for awards at various European film festivals for their work on Broken.
Although the drama in Broken is intense, it is so economically presented that it remains credible throughout its 90 minutes. An enthralling film that is at times heartwarming, at times heart-stopping, Broken is about love, parenting, community and life in general.
Drift ★★★★ M
Produced by Tim Duffy (upon whose original idea the screenplay is based), Myles Pollard (who plays one of the co-leads)and Michele Bennett (the internationally acclaimed producer of, among other films, Chopper), Drift is a most impressive film about the establishment of Kelly Brothers Surf Gear a fictional amalgam of all the big Australian surf brands in a small town on the south-west coast of Western Australia.
In the pre-titles sequence, we see plucky mum Kat Kelly (Robyn Malcolm) bundling her two young sons and their dog into the family Holden station wagon and leaving their abusive father. The boys are keen surfers and they beg Kat to put down roots in a small West Australian town where the waves are superb. Young Andy (Sean Keenan) and Jimmy (Kai Arbuckle) team up early on witha local crippled boy Gus (Harrison Buckland-Crook). Despite some initial run-ins with the locals, by 1973 the family has become part of the community. Kat is a seamstress and Andy (Myles Pollard) works at the local timber mill.
The grown-up Jimmy (Xavier Samuel) has become the more accomplished surfer, but he lacks his brother’s work ethic and gets involved with the local drug-dealing toughs, led by Miller (Steve Bas-toni). When American surf photographer JB (Sam Worthington) and Lani (Lesley-Anne Brandt) roll into town with their wetsuits and “seize the day, seize the wave” philosophy, the Kelly boys and Gus (Aaron Glenane) are inspired to start their own surf business, using Kat’s facility with the sewing machine and Gus’s skills with fibreglass. Needless to say, they encounter many hurdles, which lace the narrative with a blend of comedy, drama and romance. It is great to see veteran Perth actors Maurie Ogden and Andy King in featured roles.
Not only is Drift a good yarn, it is a superb surf film! As anyone who has swum there can attest, the surf along the West Australian coast demands major caution and respect. Scary but ever so beautiful, the giant waves and rugged coastline provide surf unit director Ben Nott and surf cinematographers Rick Rifici and Rick Jakovich with infinite action. Screenwriter Morgan O’Neill directs the “dramatic unit” with Geoffrey Hall’s cinematography deftly capturing the tensions in the small town as the younger generation embraces surfing and eschews traditional forms of employment. Editor Marcus D’Arcy has put their footage together most skilfully.
Reviews by Tricia Youlden.
Tricia teaches drama at Willoughby Girls HS. Recently, she has also enjoyed Haute Cuisine, The Other Son, The Company You Keep, and Song for Marion.