Woulst Thou Like To Live Deliciously?
The Witch is an ambitious movie, it’s dialogue all in Olde English, yet it does not bring home the proverbial bacon. It is nevertheless driven by a vision, it is pretty well made and puts on the radar some awesomely gifted child actors. Set in 17th century New England, it deploys the drama of a community confronted with a brave new world, left to the devices of their puritan roots to make sense of it, and eventually conquer it. Problem is, some collateral damage is unavoidable.
Meet the Family, it does not have a name; they are an allegory of whatever can go wrong when America, land of the free, home of the brave, retracts into a witch hunt. McCarthy, neo-cons, whatever will happen next. Father (Ralph Ineson, whose gravelly voice is a third of the pleasure watching this movie), is banished from his community because he’s too much of an integrist, even though he’s a loving husband and father. He, his wife (Kate Dickie) and their five children are left to “conquer this wilderness” during an hostile season.
Things quickly unravel from there, in a weird mix of The White Ribbon and Barry Lyndon, with some John Constable painting and a dash of Caravaggio being poured in the mix. Tomasin, the titular witch, anoints herself so to get rid of her younger siblings’ annoyance and it uncoils a death trap fueled by ignorance, superstition and bigotry.
Various animals intervene as God’s will, or the Devil’s. There is an evil hare, an even more evil raven, a hapless dog, and Black Phillip, a goat with a mellifluous voice, or so hear poor Tomasin, the unlikely heroin of the piece (Anya Taylor-Joy, wonderful). Then it goes like a country song, losing the last born, the harvest, the trust of your beloved ones, the horse, the wife, more children, your life.
Everything is blamed on possibly evil, menstruating Tomasin, including the death of her brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw, nothing short of astonishing), who meets the witch, maybe, in a spooky scene with awful consequences. Everyone dies in retribution from animals associated with the Devil, but Mother, so mad by now she attempts at strangling Tomasin. “You reek of Evil”, she yells at who was her beloved daughter a few days prior.
One won’t say how it ends. More ethnology than witchcraft, more puritan hysteria in the vein of The Crucible or The Devils than, say, Ouija 2, The Witch is a meticulously planned, meticulously filmed object of not so much fascination. It is quite good though, and its acting is superlative. Viewing advised.