The VVitch: A New-England Folktale aka The Witch
Director: Robert Eggers
Writer: Robert Eggers
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 28.4.2016
[Review by cornholio.]
William (Ralph Ineson) and Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their children Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), Mercy (Ellie Grainger), Jonas (Lucas Dawson) and the baby Samuel have come to the American colonies for a fresh start, hoping that they’d have more chances there than in the UK. In the first settlement, things don’t go as planned, so they move on and find a beautiful piece of land. But there is something in the woods next to the house. Something that drags off Samuel while Thomasin is supposed to watch him. Something that keeps the crops from growing. And the family starts to become more and more suspicious that witchcraft is involved – witchcraft that seems connected to Thomasin.
The VVitch is an atmospheric, tense film that manages to package an old story in old clothes and feel entirely fresh for it. I enjoyed it a lot.
Witch movies always have to position themselves regarding the misogyny that is inherent in witch stories. Some films revel in it (cough cough), some films manage a more thoughtful, complex approach. The VVitch is one of the latter examples.There’s no denying that witches are evil women who have a pact with the devil. But as shown with Thomasin, they didn’t simply make that pact because they’re evil to begin with. Thomasin tries so hard to do right by her family and she loses their trust one by one, always getting punished for things she is hardly responsible for. She is pushed until she has nothing left. It’s only then that she decides that she doesn’t want to be part of a society that treats her like this – and that’s when she makes her pact. Framed like that, the witch story here is less “the evil of women” and more “if you treat women like witches all the time, is it any wonder if they start behaving according to expectations?”
The historical setting – that has been painstakingly recreated to be accurate to the early 17th century – works very well for the story (although it certainly isn’t a story that could only happen at that time). It does take a bit of getting used to, since Eggers decided to use original transcripts and documents of the time directly as the material for the dialogue. But personally I rather enjoyed it – it helped me feel transported back in time.
Not surprisingly, a film that is set at that time and place and that revolves around witches, there is a lot of religion in the film. I’m usually not a fan, but in this case, it just fit everything so well, it felt absolutely organic and didn’t bother me one bit. Quite to the contrary, it rounded the story off and made it that much more comprehensible like any good piece of worldbuilding should.
I was rather hesitant about the film at first – I’ve seen too many hyped witch movies that didn’t work for me not to have my doubts – but The VVitch delivers and it delivers well. I hope that Eggers continues in that direction.
Summarizing: creepy and tense.