Good. Not great.
Anya Taylor-Joy is fantastic to watch, and they realized the world in an authentic, raw depiction. But the film suffered from a few problems, one of which I won’t get into, as it would entail spoilers.
The Witch is the kind of film that could have greatly benefited from Aronofsky’s “Subjective Filmmaking” style. And by that I mean a complete focus on only the main character, cutting out tangents. This would have shown a couple of gaps in the plot and a character progression that could have used quite a bit more attention. It would have attached us to the main character in a visceral way, and made the emotional content work. It would have given a truer vision of this story and potentially made it a great film.
But, alas, they did no such thing. Hindsight is 20/20, so take heed. There is a profound difference between a character hearing spooky sounds and being frightened by them versus the audience being blasted with spooky sounds that are unattached to anything happening on the screen. The first version is genius. The second is a gimmick. The former reminds us of the imminent danger to the character. The latter reminds us that there is a guy in a booth somewhere playing with the soundtrack.
Just when we want to see where the main character fits in, the director jumps elsewhere. This diffuses the focus, again and again. Much happens, but not all of it to the main character. The film is sidetracked, and this delicate audience attachment to the protagonist does not seem to have registered as a concern. The director, in love with his opportunities for a variety of shots, kept distancing us from the one person who could have taken the ball all the way down field.
The film deals with religious fundamentalism and superstitious minds. Most of my observations touch in some way the ending, and so in the interest of keeping it pure I’ll forgo talking about them.
But, was witchcraft as a general phenomenon conjured up purely as a backlash against those puritanical, patriarchal dolts? Everything about it can relate back to rejection of a dark-ages, fundamentalist, paranoid, religion-obsessed mindset.