mercredi 3 août 2016

movie review : The Witch (2015)

Last time I reviewed a movie on Blasting days was more than four years ago (the excellent Balada Triste de Trompeta, read the review HERE). Also I usually review only things that I really like (got no time for the rest...). But the reason I'm reviewing this one is because it got me angry. Let me explain...
The Witch is not so bad, the main idea is good (and that's why the bad part makes it disapointing and frustrating) : the movie takes places in the seventeeth century New England, the characters are a deeply religious family that leave behind them the "corruption" of their town and goes into exile and isolation on a farm close to a dark forest. The movie does a quite good job in showing the struggle of the familly against the hardships that accumulates against them and their struggles to keep firm their faith and beliefs that are tested by the worsening of their situation and by their confrontation to what they fear might be witchcraft. These trials also loosen the ties beetween the family members and the role of each character in the family is also put to test. This, with a gloomy atmosphere and a growing feel of paranoia, is the successfull part of the movie, with some quite good acting, more subtle than the scenario. The characters marked by religious fanaticism are not showed as one sided and appears human. Even without sharing their beliefs the spectators cares about the characters. The dialogues in old english partly taken from texts of the time are also a good point. These elements would have made a good movie. What wastes for a large part the movie is that witchcraft is not just something that the characters suspects and fears, something in their ideology and psychology that alter their relations. No in The Witch witchcraft is a real thing, there's real witches and Satan for real. I'm not against withcraft and supernatural things in a movie, the problem is not that, the problem is that it is showed in the most simplistic, crude and caricatural way. Witchcraft and evil are depicted in a way that is as bigotted as the characters are. And while the movie manages to show the complexity in its characters, it fails completely to do so about witchcraft and even about the christian point of view about witchcraft. In the Witch witchcraft is what is is in the crudest puritanical christian ideology (same as in other religion by the way). What is evil is women and the flesh. Women fall into temptation and are led by Satan into human sacrifices, blahblah. the withches showed in the movie are just grotesque, and simplisticaly one sided, and not even frightening. I'm not complaining it's giving witchcraft a bad name, I don't care about witchcraft as, like religion, it exists only as ideology, existing only as long as it shapes the psychology and social relations of people bevieving in it (or taking profit from it...). Problem is that the christian war against "witchcraft" was in a large part a war against people being different and questionning the traditionnal social roles and hierarchies, and of course the power of the church itself. So showing witchcraft in the way the church depicts it is like renacting the christian fight against anyone questionning traditionnal hierarchies (male domination, the church, etc.).
A movie released in 2015 about witches that fails to question the puritanical religious take on witchcraft (and beyond that on women, traditionnal family, sex, etc.) is just completely wrong.
If you just edit the film and remove the few scenes with witches and "real" witchcraft you have a good movie, that's why it's a pity these scenes of "real (and caricatural) witchcraft" are just wasting the whole movie in such a way. What a shame...

After seeing the movie I read a few interviews of the director of the movie, Robert Eggers, his views on witches are not as simplistic as the movie could suggest and I suppose his purpose was not siding with the puritan christian ideology. But still the scenes of "real witchcraft", completely in line with the traditionnal ideology, are just clumsy and the movie would be a lot better without it...
Maybe you could say the absurdity of the kind of satan worshipping witchcraft showed and the absurdity of the beliefs of the characters are in itself a critique of this traditionnal point of view. Well... I maintain that removing these scenes would have made a far more subtler and convincing take on the subject.

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