Thursday, 17 March 2016


Universal Pictures

Set in 1630, decades before the Salem witch trials in ye olde America, The Witch sows the seeds of what is to come for the god-fearing folk of New England in a period-precise though historically liberal retelling of events on the American frontier. That detail goes a long way in making the world of The Witch both highly believable and increasingly claustrophobic; debut director, Robert Eggers, who previously worked as a costume and production designer, getting both the look and feel of film just right whilst also keeping us almost as completely in the dark as the family at its centre.

Banished from the community at the beginning of the film, the family of seven (two adults, five children) forge a new life on the edge of the woods. But when their baby son disappears, and then their crops begin to spoil, grief and paranoia, combined with religious fervor, begin to cloud reason and before long everyone is jumping at ghosts -- and goats -- and accusations of witchcraft begin to fly.

The Witch will draw comparisons with The Crucible but it is without the McCarthy subtext or the the awakening of female sexuality which drove Arthur Miller's narrative. What it does share are those events' departure from common sense, making way for fear to take root. You can't have God without the Devil, and if faith is belief in the absence of proof, well, the events of The Witch are the other side of the same spiritual coin. It's an impressive directorial debut where the devil is very much in the detail, casting a claustrophobic spell until almost the very end.

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