© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

The Witch
U.S.A./U.K./Canada/Brazil 2015

Opening 19 May 2016

Directed by: Robert Eggers
Writing credits: Robert Eggers
Principal actors: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger

William (Ineson) is one of the first pilgrims in America’s New England territory, 1630. He left England for religious freedom. However, his religion is so much stricter than others in his colony, that they force him, his wife, and their five children to move further west into unknown territory. They huddle close to survive, sleep on bales of straw, hack wood, and tend to their goats. One afternoon teenage daughter Thomasin (Taylor-Joy) plays with baby Samuel, the youngest son. She closes her eyes for just one second and he disappears. Thus begins a series of horrible events, which father William and son Caleb (Scrimshaw) investigate by walking further into the mysterious forest near their house. Grief-stricken mother Katherine (Dickie) slowly loses control, partly because of the loss of her baby, and partly because of the mysterious disappearance of a silver cup – her only possession from the mother country. Still she must keep a sane appearance, even if only to care for the young twins Jonas and Mercy. They spend time in prayer and persist in the attitude that their lives are in God’s hands. “Let us pray and we won’t have to worry.”

Robert Eggers won best director at the Sundance film festival with The Witch. The costumes of pilgrims of those times are perfect. The mysterious naked people in the woods, blood flowing from unusual places, putting the blame on the ram, a beautiful witch, etc., happen in short segments. Or do they?  Is it our imagination? Did fantasy play a role in the religion of the 1600s? How to interpret signs and cruel fates in those days? It’s not only the wonderful acting and editing, that make this film very worthwhile, but the opportunity to discuss what is real and what is religious delusion. The Witch played in the Hamburg Fantasy Film festival before this official opening six weeks later. It’s impossible to look away throughout the whole 92 minutes – a perfect length for a scary movie, which might even contain much truth. (Becky Tan)

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