Greetings again from the darkness. It’s the worst nightmare for every Parent, Teacher and Child. Sexual Abuse of a child is incomprehensible … it’s unthinkable, yet all too common. So what happens when a man is falsely accused of such inappropriate action? Well if the accusation comes from the most innocent of faces – a 5 year old girl – the falsely accused man stand no chance … regardless of what the letter of the law states.
Such is the story of Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen, TV’s “Hannibal“), a lonely, small town kindergarten teacher who has gone through a rough divorce and is losing his fight for visitation rights to his teenage son. We witness Lucas quietly going about his life … he is loved by the students and surrounded by life long hunting buddies and friends. Soon enough, things start to look up for Lucas. An attractive teacher expresses her interest in him and his son convinces the mother that he should live with his dad.
The set-up of the characters and the powerfully simmering performance of Mikkelsen elevate this somewhat predictable story to the brink of excruciating discomfort for the viewer. In the blink of a childhood moment of imaginative confusion of emotional pain, an innocent man’s life is forever altered. Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) is the daughter of Lucas’ best friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen). A very protective teacher unwittingly leads Klara down the path that initiates a landslide of emotion that simply cannot be stopped. Of course, the teachers and parents and community believe the cute little girl … the innocence of kids cannot be doubted. As the defensive instincts of parents kick in, we see the dangerous side of influence and suddenly numerous kids have piled on and become part of Klara’s story.
Director Thomas Vinterberg brilliantly keeps us looking through the eyes of Lucas. We know he is innocent and we beg him to scream it! Instead, he expects everyone to just know he does not have this in him at all. His faith in himself never waivers despite our discomfort and anger. He does finally reach a boiling point after a heart-breaking scene in the local market, but even that moment does not feel like a victory. The course of his life has been altered.
While “The Scarlet Letter” gave us an indication of exile by community, this story shows us just how quickly human nature has us jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst. Persecution and judgment by the mob is one of the most dangerous developments of society. Lucas reminds us that innocence and faith may not always be enough and sometimes life just isn’t fair.
**NOTE: this is extremely serious subject matter handled in a very straightforward manner by a talented director and extraordinary cast. There are a few touches of dark humor, but mostly this is just an intense, difficult to watch film.
watch the trailer: