Mads Mikkelsen, a veteran of Danish film best known internationally for playing Le Chiffre in the 2006 James Bond film ‘Casino Royale’, was awarded the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday for his role in the psychological thriller ‘The Hunt’ ‘Jagten’, which is set in Denmark and directed by Dane Thomas Vinterberg.
‘The Hunt’ premiered on May 20 at Cannes, after which reviewers were generous with their praise for Mikkelsen’s performance. The film was popular with critics and buyers alike, and has thus far been sold to 20 countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Israel.
“Propelled by Mads Mikkelsen’s shattering performance as the blameless man whose life threatens to be destroyed, the film is superbly acted by a cast that never strikes a false note or softens the impact with consolatory sentiment,” wrote a reviewer for The Hollywood Reporter.
Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a kindergarten teacher recovering from a bitter divorce and separation from his son, Markus. Klara, the five-year-old daughter of Lucas’s friend Theo, develops a crush on Lucas, which he tries to discourage gently. Klara responds by telling kindergarten supervisor Grethe that Lucas exposed himself to her.
The tight-knit community is shocked into action by these allegations, and Lucas finds himself ostracised. The film follows Lucas’s struggle with isolation in a society quick to shun an innocent man.
“He would call me at any time asking different questions about the scenes and coming up with new lines,” Vinterberg said of Mikkelsen’s performance in an interview with Film4 Magazine. “And when an actor gets the feeling that he knows the character through conversation and improvisation, then all the small details come. He feels calm enough to disappear into the unknown.”
The award will cement Mikkelsen’s status as one of cinema’s leading men and opens up a wider range of roles for him, according to Filmmagasinet Ekko editor Claus Christensen.
“His career has already taken off, but maybe bigger directors will also want to be a part of it now,” Christensen said.
‘The Hunt’, which will be released on 10 January 2013 in Denmark, also won a prize, the 2012 Ecumenical Jury award. The jury praised the film for “showing us a new way of looking at modern society where men and children are concerned; things are not always what they seem”. Lars von Trier won the same award in 2009 for ‘Antichrist’.
And Charlotte Bruss Christensen, the cinematographer on ‘The Hunt’, won the ‘Vulcain Prize of the Technical Artist’ for her work, securing a total of three honours for the film.
‘The Hunt’ was also in the running for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s award for best film, but lost to ‘Amour’, an Austrian film directed by Michael Haneke. Mikkelsen dedicated his win to Vinterberg, who was back at Cannes 14 years after his acclaimed incest drama ‘Festen’ won the Jury prize.
“More than 80 percent, maybe 82 percent, of this is Thomas Vinterberg’s prize,” Mikkelsen said as he accepted the award.