What really happened to the characters in the film The Witch (The VVitch, 2015): meaning of the film, plot summary, ending explanation, similar movies.
Country: USA, Canada, UK
Year of production: 2015
Director: Robert Eggers
Actors: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw
Slogan: “A New-England Folktale”
Almost all of Robert Eggers’s paintings are in one way or another connected with folklore. “The Witch” was no exception. According to critics, the film cannot be called “pure” horror – it is more of a mystical drama, stylized as a scary fairy tale.
It can be assumed that the meaning of the film “The Witch” (“The VVitch: A New-England Folktale”) is that all of a person’s misfortunes lie in the dogmas and stereotypes imposed on him. However, like any other smart movie, this story does not offer ready-made solutions.
What is the movie about
Brief description of the contents of the picture. A large family from New England is expelled from the community by court decision. The reason is that the head of the family, William, tried to interpret the Bible in his own way.
The family has been looking for a long time for a place where they could live peacefully and, in the end, settles in a quiet, but rather remote place.
By this time, another fifth child is born in the family, who is named Samuel. The eldest daughter, Thomasin, is entrusted with looking after the baby. One day the child disappears.
The frightened girl comes up with the idea of running into the forest and looking for Sam there, but she soon becomes convinced that it is useless. And how can you find a small child in a deep, dense forest? Unless he will cry… But no sound comes from the dark thicket.
This misfortune is followed by another – the corn crop is dying. Thomasin’s mother, Katerina, is experiencing the loss of her baby the hardest. She constantly cries and prays for the child’s soul – they didn’t have time to baptize him, which means that hellish torment probably awaits him. Listening to her mother wail, Thomasin feels guilty: it was she who did not keep an eye on the baby…
Gradually, having recovered from both shocks, the family returns to their former life. William and middle son Caleb go to the forest, while Katherine and Thomasin work in the house. One day, the younger children, twins Jonas and Mercy, decide to have some fun. To do this, they begin to tease their friend – a big goat named Black Philip. At some point, the animal lunges at the guys, but, fortunately, at that moment the father of the family and Caleb return home.
A little later, Thomasin’s mother sends her to the stream and tells her to wash her father’s clothes. She is soon joined by Caleb, who has come for water. Suddenly Mercy appears on the horizon. Having fun and fooling around, the girl gives her version of Samuel’s disappearance: according to her, Thomasin herself took the child to the forest because she is a witch and serves the evil spirit. The girl decides to play along with her sister and scares Mercy so much that she runs away.
Before going to bed, Katerina reproaches her husband for going against the church (in her opinion, there was no point in this). She then reveals that Thomasin recently started her period. This means that she can be given to servants. William agrees: tomorrow he will send her to a nearby village.
Their conversation is overheard by children and Caleb, not wanting to part with his sister, is going to go into the forest for game. His reasoning is that if he gets something, their family will have food and Thomasin won’t have to become a servant. The girl persuades her brother to take her with him.
In the forest, the horse Thomasin was riding on gets scared by who knows what, throws her off and she loses consciousness. At some point, Caleb is left alone in the thicket and realizes that someone is watching him closely. Absolutely disoriented, the boy, reading a prayer out loud, tries to find his way. However, he goes further and further into the forest…
Meanwhile, the parents, realizing that the children are not at home, go in search of them and find Thomasin. Caleb comes across a hut, from which a beautiful young woman comes out to meet him. Slowly approaching the frightened teenager, she kisses him.
A little later, Thomasin goes to herd the animals and discovers Caleb – he is not wearing any clothes, and he is in an almost somnambulistic state. In the morning, the boy suddenly becomes worse – he begins to delirium. His parents decide to show him to the doctor and are going to go to a nearby village. The frightened twins begin to scream that Thomasin is to blame, because she is a witch. It was she who carried Sam into the forest and bewitched Caleb!..
William doesn’t believe this and the family begins to pray. For a moment the boy feels better, but soon he dies. Sobbing over Caleb’s body, Thomasin’s mother drives her away in a rage. On the street, her father approaches her and asks her to confess to witchcraft. The girl replies that this is not true, but he does not want to listen to her. Moreover, he begins to suspect that the twins also serve the devil – after all, they are talking to Black Philip. Having locked all the children in a pen, he tells them that the next morning they will go to the village, to the priest – he will drive the devil out of them and tell them what to do next.
At night, heartbroken Katerina sees Caleb holding Samuel in his arms. She does not understand that this is a phantom and talks to him as if he were alive. A witch appears in the pen, having flown in to feast on goat’s milk. Seeing her, the children get scared and scream in fear…
The next morning, William goes to the pen and is suddenly attacked by a goat. Mortally wounded, the father dies in Thomasin’s arms. Katerina, running out to the screams and seeing her dead husband, in a rage attacks her eldest daughter and begins to beat her, but she, defending herself, accidentally kills her…
The Witch Ending explained
Explanation of the ending of the picture. Not understanding what to do next, the girl goes to the pen, where Black Philip is waiting for her, who, as it turns out, is not so simple… Suddenly the goat turns to her. “What do you want?” he asks. And then he offers a deal: her life will be long and filled with all kinds of pleasures. In exchange for this, Thomasin will have to faithfully serve him, that is, the unclean one. The girl agrees. All she needs is to put her signature on the contract.
Then, having stripped naked, Thomasin goes into the forest – there witches gather for a Sabbath and among them she truly feels like she belongs…
The meaning of the ending of the film “The Witch” can be expressed in two words: the triumph of evil. The witch tormented a whole family with all its livestock, ruined their bodies and immortal souls. Unfortunately, Thomasin (the only survivor) found true salvation and freedom not in Christ, but in the devil. And the fault was her hypocritical, proud father. After all, the family was expelled from the community for a reason, but because he fell into the sin of pride. She and Katerina were not believers, but religious fanatics. There was no genuine love for one’s neighbor, humility, patience, that is, everything that characterizes real Christians. Instead of uniting against the background of endless misfortunes, they looked for the root of evil in each other, for which they ultimately paid.
However, the ending has another interpretation. It lies in the fact that Thomasin, having lost her entire family, simply went crazy from everything she had experienced. That is, everything that happened to her after her mother’s death was just her fantasies (hallucinations).
The meaning of the film The Witch
In their analysis, many viewers note that the plot of Robert Eggers’ film is too strange. This is indeed so, and the answer lies in the fact that the director, by his own admission, primarily filmed his version of the “myth of witches.” That is, in essence, his film is a film adaptation of ancient European legends.
If you look at this film exactly as a terrible gothic fairy tale without any hidden meaning, then all the details clearly fall into place and in the end we get a whole and complete picture.
The essence of the film in this case is quite simple. Almost every member of the family, except baby Samuel, is tempted to commit one of the seven deadly sins. William falls into the sin of pride, Caleb – of lust (the boy has entered puberty and is clearly looking at his beautiful older sister), Katerina – of anger. The twins, who died as a result of the witch’s “raid,” spend the entire film playing and chatting with Black Philip. Probably their sin is laziness.
They themselves believe that everything is fine with them and habitually blame Thomasin for all their sins. Thus, they themselves allow the devil to take their lives and take possession of their souls…
However, it is likely that everything is not so simple here, and Robert Eggers tried to find a new meaning in the old folklore legend about the witch.
Trying to improve the life of his small farm, the head of the family faced disaster. His crop was destroyed by a harmful fungus called ergot. The reason was that the corn grew in poor soil.
In the old days, eating food contaminated with ergot led to a terrible disease – ergotism. The resulting severe poisoning was accompanied by painful symptoms – nausea, severe vomiting, mental confusion, hallucinations, paranoid delusions and convulsions, which were also called the “witch’s disease”.
These were the signs that all members of William’s family had.
That is, we can assume that the whole nightmare happening in the picture is the consequences of eating bad food infected with a fungus. Considering that the heroes were Puritans, it is not surprising that their hallucinations took the form of typical religious and cultural (according to Western European beliefs, the goat is a symbol of the devil) fears of man in the first half of the 17th century.
The conclusion is disappointing: ignorance and religiosity due to family troubles, hunger and disease can lead to tragic consequences. In vain, drawing the last of their spiritual strength, the family tried to avert the great misfortune hanging over their house.
However, due to the lack of real faith, nothing worked out for them, and their world eventually collapsed. They had no choice but to accept the inevitable – and each did it in their own way.
The ending of the film looks logical and natural. Having lost all her family and being left alone, Thomasin experienced something like ecstatic delight – because her religious father and mother suppressed her and forced her to forget about her needs and desires. After their death, she became part of the boundless chaos.
By the way, the scary and dense forest where the Sabbath takes place is another interesting metaphor. According to researchers of world folklore, it symbolizes an unawakened (dormant) consciousness.
In fairy tales, characters’ journeys through the forest are always associated with initiation – they return home only after they have gained new experience.
In real life, by studying one’s own consciousness by exploring one’s imperfections and struggling with them, a person eventually grows up, understands who he is, where he is and what he should do. This is exactly what happens to Thomasin: having abandoned the religious dogmas that constrain her, she becomes free and understands that this is exactly what she has dreamed of all her short life.
There is no need, however, to rush to accuse the director of anticlericalism and atheism. We should not forget that “The Witch” is still a fairy tale, nor that everyone has their own lack of freedom.
Here are several films similar to “The Witch” in meaning and partly in plot:
- “Resident of Fear” (USA, 2018). Wild West. Another couple moves in next door to the young couple. The new neighbors are behaving quite strangely…
- Suspiria (Italy, USA, 2018). A young American girl comes to Berlin and joins a famous dance group. Soon she will learn about a terrible curse that has been placed on the academy.
- “The Mysterious Forest” (USA, 2004). The village of Covington is surrounded by a dense forest in which something terrible lives.
- “Ritual” (UK, Canada, 2017). Several guys go hiking in the mountains. One day they come across a cabin in the forest and decide to spend the night there.