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The Witch - A New England Folktale

* If you've seen the above trailer then you've seen the amazing and astonishing two and a half minute long art film subtitled A New England Folktale. If you've seen the longer version, titled The Witch, then I'm sorry to say that you've seen a gorgeously filmed but strangely unfocused piece of writing, in which the denoument was nothing short of disappointing and aggravating. Thoughts, I have them!

I do think, ultimately, this film is not successful, but the fact that it is subtitled as a folktale and that it is so simple in its story and character, make it a wonderful movie to look at from a writing point of view.

So, was Thomasina suspect throughout the film? She was to me. Only because I was watching the film for story and trying to think ahead to all of the possible endings. I LOVED that part of the suspicion - on the parts of her parents, herself, and the viewer - was the fact that she had recently begun to menstruate! That solidly brings the Red Riding Hood trope into this story. And if we are going to say Thomasina is suspect from the beginning, then we have to ask the question - did ALL of the bloodshed originate from Thomasina??? Was there ever a witch in the woods? And is Black Phillip, as a goat or as a man, real or imagined? Can we take this story out of "folktale" and say it's a morality tale about fundamental Christianity? Naw, that's too boring. And we've seen that, here's an entire family butchered but wait! the main character is actually mentally ill, completely accountable, and hearing voices.

No, this story does not want to be that kind of twist. It wants to be a symbolic archetypal tale. So....fine. I can accept that. In that case, does the ending work? Why does it feel flat and ultimately unsatisfying? Partially because what comes before is really, really good. The twins, this goat, Thomasina's amazingly well-acted...odd sincerity and distance, the dream sequence of the mother, and the first shot of the witch and the baby. I think the second witch interaction with Caleb failed, so I'm discounting it.

Some of my issues began with plausability. I don't think this family, raised by the good book, would be as coarsely disfunctional as they are portrayed. Mainly, the twins and their sing-song diabolical relationship with Black Phillip. I didn't buy that. I did buy the moment we see the rot underneath, the father's lies, Caleb's lust and lies, the mother's inability to forgive her eldest. I thought those were fantastically well-played and well-written in the smallness of the actions and how those small things really are hugely damaging to the strength of the family.

I think....I would have preferred an ending in which there is no coven and Thomasina puts Black Phillip on a rope and leads him out into the woods....

What are YOUR thoughts????


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 7th, 2016 04:06 pm (UTC)
The trailer is stunningly beautiful. In fact it reminds me a little of M. Night Shymalan's The Village. Has that kind of...vibe. I remember being very disappointed in the end of that film, only because the hype and the build up was so impressive and the end was kind of meh.

Good to see you doing reviews! When did you see the movie?
Jun. 7th, 2016 05:07 pm (UTC)
It is stunningly beautiful, M. The cinematography really suits. The story just slightly underachieves. In the exact same way that "The Village" does. That film had so much build up and so much potential for true creepiness. But it just...was like nothing. Like a shrug.

We saw this two nights ago. It's out on dvd now.
Jun. 7th, 2016 05:37 pm (UTC)
This reminds me -- I have a book called "HEX" in my to-read pile, in part because the reviews were so good.

I'll let you know whether I recommend it, after I've had a chance to read it.

Jun. 7th, 2016 05:49 pm (UTC)
Yes! Do, please!
Jun. 7th, 2016 05:59 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen the film but the trailer looked very interesting. And I really liked your review.

Now I have questions. What happened to the baby? What was the film actually about? Were they just searching for the witch?

What actually happened in the end?

I never understand when films put all the best bits in the trailer. Who makes this decision? Do they not understand that trailers only pull some people in and the rest is word of mouth. Or maybe the people making the trailers are completely separate and all that matters is making a good trailer no matter how it effects the taking in of the film.
Jun. 7th, 2016 08:15 pm (UTC)
The trailer is GORGEOUS! THAT is a small art film...the movie...needed to be better. I, also, don't understand trailers that are better than the film and/or give away some crucial bit of information. Bah!

What happens to the baby is the most horrific scene in the film, so, uh, nothing good. EEP! But the film can't sustain that level of witchery....The film is about a banished family in Puritan New England and how they are butchered by a satanic presence in the form of their billy goat. The only "actual" witch that can be verified is the eldest daughter in the last three minutes of the movie. It is an allegorical kind of parable...but it needed to be tightened up.
Jun. 7th, 2016 06:32 pm (UTC)
That's amazing
Jun. 7th, 2016 07:01 pm (UTC)
You said it all. I thought it was really well done but ultimately fell flat for many of the reasons you site. I think for me personally, a more ambiguous ending with all the questions not quite answered is what I wanted- Is she mad? Is she really a witch? was there really another witch in the woods? Were they all hallucinating? This would have been more satisfying for me.

And YES to your ending, that would have been so much better!
Jun. 7th, 2016 08:18 pm (UTC)
It was so well done. I just wanted it to be more and more and more. In many ways it reminded me, stylistically, of The Piano which is another kind of allegorical symbolic tale.

I haven't begun to watch any of the reviews/meta/interviews yet and I don't usually, but with this film I'm going to because it is so small and simple and a really good learning tool for writing tighter. I get the allegory/folktale aspect of it and maybe they were poisoning themselves with spoilt corn? I wanted ambiguity....and up to the point where she demands Black Phillip to speak to her, I was very forgiving of the shortcomings because it was so good. WHAT on earth was the mother's dream symbolic of???? And the witch in the goat barn....eep!

Where did it lose you?
Jun. 7th, 2016 10:09 pm (UTC)
I thought this was going to be a movie about Baba Yaga. I only liked that they used old English and the scenery. Other than that it was pretty bad.
Jun. 7th, 2016 10:39 pm (UTC)
There is definitely a need for Baba Yaga and/or Vasalisa representation in literature and film! When the baby scene was taking place, I thought it was going to be about Baba Yaga!!

I thought the old English did not work. But I was watching it at home. It probably rocked in a theatre.
Jun. 8th, 2016 11:52 am (UTC)
My hub and I enjoyed this movie just for entertainment. AW
Jun. 8th, 2016 02:26 pm (UTC)
I worry when Satanism is used for entertainment purposes without a deeper message, so I'm trying to find it in this film!
Jun. 8th, 2016 12:05 pm (UTC)
I thought it meant there was good and evil in all of us-on all that we do.

Evil:the village kicking out the whole family, the mothers intolerance of her children, the lust of the brother, the fathers lying to make himself look better, the twins super-bratty disrespect fans sense of entitlement or everything.
This behavior pretty much polluted Thomasina's perspective on her life.
Like in the movie/ book Carrie, they didn't understand where menustration came from and assumed it was evil because of a Biblical interpretation.

Jun. 8th, 2016 02:27 pm (UTC)
I LOVE this interpretation! I did get a vibe from the film that it was the strict religious beliefs that got this family into trouble and once there, they couldn't get out!
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )