Thomas Vinterberg: The Story Matters – movieScope

“This children’s psychiatrist knocked on my door back in 2000 and said, ‘You did Festen? There’s another film you have to do.’ He had seen that there is one kind of victim portrayed in Festen, and he showed me another kind of victim. Which is, in a sense, children being victims of their own lives. Imagine that a child [tells] a lie. Then this huge theatre appears in front of them; this whole case appears around them, and they end up believing it’s true. It’s what they call added memory, and they will end up suffering from this in similar ways to people that actually suffer from real happenings.

We read many cases [of this], but I have to say our film has nothing to do with any of these. It’s drama. It’s fiction. We had to, at some point very early on, step out of the real world and into our world. We actually just wanted to make a story about love. About fatherhood. About friendship. And maybe about the loss of innocence of some kind.

[By choosing the subject of child abuse] I’m not trying to be action-packed or create impact in a constructed way. I just think that this breach of innocence that can happen towards children is the only thing that can make people take the law into their own hands. In [The Hunt] I have a main character [Mikkelsen’s Lucas] who is good and believes in the good in other people. He’s very stubbornly civilised, which in a way is either very much me or very much Scandinavian or somewhere in-between. His moral standards are high, and that has been challenged.

I did not find it interesting to play with the doubt [of Lucas’ innocence], because then we cannot devote ourselves to him. I wanted to go on a journey with him, and go through this exact experience knowing that I had done the opposite 14 years before [in Festen]. I guess the reality is somewhere in-between these movies. The problem is that audiences are trained to be suspicious, so it’s very difficult. Every time we had an angle that could make Mads Mikkelsen look like a child molester, we had to change it.

This film was not shot in the same sexy kind of style [as Festen]. In that sense, I guess I grew older, or grew away from that. But what I have always pursued is the purity. We’re trying to do that as much as we can, the cameraman and myself. Trying to make the scene vibrate as if it would happen even without our camera there. I have learned that I am not, at the moment at least and maybe for the rest of my career, a form experimenter. Kubrick died around the time I did Festen, and I saw Von Trier a lot; they both reinvent the form every time they make a movie. I thought I should do the same thing for a while, and I found that’s not where my thing is. I’m occupied with human fragility, and the highest goal for me is to create characters that stand. Then you have created life.” •