I have been busy watching as many of the AW-nominated films as I could, so this is the first 2016 film I have seen. The movie is a debut effort by Writer/Director Robert Eggers, and it’s a “haunting” and impressive one.
Set in the 1630’s (well-prior to the Salem witch trials), the film’s inspiration is the diaries, court testimony, and pamphlets of the times.
A puritan New England family is expelled from their community due to religious differences and the pride and arrogance of the father, William (Ralph Ineson). William, his stern wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie), and their five children subsequently find a seemingly-suitable place to settle down, although the decidedly “un-settling” score foreshadows that William’s choice is fraught with danger.
Their oldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), has just started puberty, and with this hormonal change and the increased responsibilities placed on her by her mother, she is psychologically vulnerable. The family is struggling with marginal crops, financial hardship, and social isolation. Add to this mix the strict and sexually-repressive Puritan ethic, and something’s got to give.
The acting is terrific, especially Anya Taylor-Joy. With the beautiful cinematography and dialogue of the times, one gets engrossed and transported back to this era. As the family’s fabric unravels, as more and more mysterious events occur, the family being cursed by witchcraft seems to be the only “reasonable” explanation.
Eggers won the Best Director Award at Sundance and I look forward to his next film. “The Witch” will work fine as a rental, but it’s unique and “spellbinding,” so it’s worth a trip to the BS.