Last week I decided to step out of my comfort zone and went to see The Witch. Filled with folklore elements, witches and intriguing characters, The Witch was good. Though, it felt like something that was in my comfort zone, rather than something very scary which I was secretly expecting from it.
Estonia is known for its lack of religion and we have been considered pagans for a long time. We were known to believe in nature, rather than the man up on the cloud, and there’s a lot of history revolving around us being against religion. Part of me thinks that’s the reason why the atmosphere in the theater during The Witch was light and the elements of paganism weren’t as shocking as they were intended to be. There were moments were audience members chuckled, and it sort of killed the vibe The Witch wanted to create but despite of it, I sort of enjoyed it for its connection to Estonian folklore.
I’m no expert, but I know the forest is an important element for many European cultures, and since a big part of Estonia is covered with it, it definitely is for us as well. The forest represents something strange, and foreign, while being a safe place for many creatures, including animals, birds and witches. The Witch showcases that importance, it demonstrates us that it’s scary, yet vital. In the center of the movie, a family, driven out from the village for religious reasons, struggles to find food to feed their large family of seven. Then a tragedy hits and the family is torn apart, with the oldest, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), ending up in the middle of it all.
There are a lot of great moments in the film, and there is, especially in the end, a lot of tension. I particularly loved the fact that the setting was minimal, and there weren’t too many characters, and that the fantasy elements weren’t overwhelming and it was more about the family dynamic and psychological terror. The fact that the kids played a big role in the end game was satisfying and the character development of Thomasin was interesting, and Taylor-Joy’s performance was great.
The downside, which I already mention was the fact that I expected a little more. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting, because horror has never really been my choice of genre, but I left the cinema with the feeling of needing more of something. It wasn’t as scary as I thought but at the same time the plot turned out to be rich and complicated opposed to the stereotypical story lines in horror movies. It was also a little surprising because the final act kind of flipped everything around and I guess it meant that witches aren’t born but they are created through actions that are manipulated by various elements.
So despite me feeling like I needed more, I guess I liked what I got but I still didn’t leave the cinema completely in love with it. The fact that it had so many folklore elements and that it was delivered well, made it a good experience but I think ultimately I myself ruined it a little with my expectations and the overall vibe in the audience minimized its effect. Plus, if I’m going to be honest, I wished there was just a tiny bit more scenes with the witches.
I’m so looking forward to it. I found it so interesting you wrote about your country’s history here – we had very rich folklore-filled tradition here for 10 centuries and then since the Catholic baptism everything was pretty much eradicated. The Witcher game is so popular right now and it uses the folklore elements of Polish folk tales but really there is barely any trace here anymore which is such a shame. Your country, from what I’m reading here, untainted from that influence must have so many things still alive folklore-wise. I really am hoping to see the movie soon since it’s just around my alley, there are so few movies done well about paganism and the witches.
We had so many countries pushing their religion and their beliefs onto us for decades.. and I want to believe that many of our traditions survived despite of it. There are definitely little things that I know, plants that can help with certain health problems, and stuff like that, how to get drinking water from a tree and random things that are most likely folklore elements I’ve picked up over the years from my grand parents and parents. But the movie, which had that simplicity to it, that reminded me of a book I read as a kid, about this girl who was thought to be a werewolf.. that was what clicked with me the most. The similarities between these two completely different stories (at least in my head).