Tuesday, 13 October 2015

LFF REVIEW - THE WITCH (ROBERT EGGERS)


Life is a trial for all living things, but for what purpose is at our individual discretion. Those who refuse the autonomy to choose that purpose for themselves, who subscribe to the often corrupt theologies of others, may find the prospect of a reward at the end of their life especially appealing, but the trial of life itself all the more gruelling. The oppression of religious faith hangs over its followers, and the pagan hypocrisies of The Witch's characters lead them to hang themselves in the futile process of adherence to that faith. This is a bleak film, one with a suitably spoilt impression of spirituality and the manners by which we allow it to bear influence on our lives, and the manners by which we thus fail to adequately understand it. A soundtrack of primal sounds both diegetic and non-diegetic engenders a fear of the unseen and a mistrust of what we do see, the film's overall structure and style serving both as a surprisingly thorough thesis on the dangers of blind faith and as a horror film, in which danger is appropriately always at hand. Robert Eggers crafts out of The Witch a harrowing family drama foremost, and draws much of the film's most directly distressing material from the emotional intimacy therein. The drama is no less effective for his liberal incursions into overt horror (this is a horror film, after all), not least since Eggers employs these genre elements as narrative and thematic tools. Regardless, The Witch is an extremely effective genre film, immaculately conceived, designed and executed. It's a trial for one's nerves.