Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"The Witch" - A Horrifying Deconstruction of Faith

Let me first admit that "The Witch" is a very well made indie horror movie from first time director, Robert Eggers
The lighting in particular stands out, with Eggers using natural light in his shots wherever possible. This not only helps create a haunting visual with its fading light and flickering shadows but also creates an authentic feel for this 17th century Puritan tale of witchery. And in many ways this is a welcome return to the old style horror that relied on cinematography and dialogue to create its tension and scares. But idle movie-goers beware, this is a wolf in sheep's clothing. For though it looks like a horror movie, and passes as a horror movie at first glance, in reality this is a scathing condemnation of religion and specifically, Christianity. The true horror here is the gradual realization that this movie has been subtly constructed to deconstruct and then tear apart a belief in Christ and religion.
Ralph Ineson as William in "The Witch"
The father of the family, William, is clearly set up as a type of Christ. With long hair and full beard accompanied by sad and haunting eyes, Ralph Ineson as William, creates a perfect Renaissance image of Christ. Additionally, from the opening scene where he challenges the established religious authorities, to a scene intentionally reminiscent of the last supper and on to the intercessory prayer scene where William prays that he might take upon him his family's sins, "The Witch" is laced with these moments designed to remind us that William represents Christ. His family represent his faithful followers.

Ultimately, for all his bravado and words, William's faith is shown to fail him and his family. In a scene some Christians may perceive as more horrific than any bloodied body or witch scene, William's daughter, Thomasin (played with just the right balance of innocence and potential sinfulness by relative newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy) tells her father that he is a hypocrite and a liar and that he is useless at providing for his family, he can't farm, he can't hunt and that all he is good at is "cutting wood". This stark assessment of her father serves to reveal the key theme of Egger's movie - that Christ is merely a carpenter and not the Son of God and not the Saviour and helpless to help his children.

Furthering this anti-Christian theme, Eggers shows this originally faithful family overtaken by an ever-increasing sense of despair as evil envelops and surrounds their once-hopeful family.

One might argue that Eggers is merely commenting in general on how religious extremism breeds evil and this message is certainly found within the eerily subtle frames of "The Witch" but its focus on William as a type of Christ is a clear message to all that Eggers wants us to believe that there is no hope in Christ.

It is telling that the movie was intentionally marketed to the Satanic Temple and its followers as a film that would resonate with those that live life "minus the God element".

From a movie-making point of view The Witch is a fantastic debut and quite possibly deserves it's Sundance director prize. As a Christian, I find it's message truly horrifying.

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