The film The Witch, released in 2015, is the directorial debut of Robert Eggers, which brought him worldwide fame. A gloomy atmosphere, gradually increasing tension and hopeless despair – the story is fantastic, and it will be more unexpected for the viewer to find out that it is based on real events.
The action begins in a Puritan community on the shores of New England. The main characters – the head of the William family, his wife Katerina and four children – are expelled from the settlement for their arrogant attitude towards church laws and pride. The family does not despair and settles down near the dense forest – they build a small farm, start a household and plant corn. They are faced with the primary task – to survive alone, away from fellow countrymen, on an unknown land, so at first, in worries and troubles, they do not notice oddities.
A couple of months after the forced relocation, Katerina gives birth to a son, Samuel, but the joy turns into a huge grief: the child disappears due to an oversight by Thomasin, the eldest daughter. The inconsolable parents decide that the wolf took him away, but in the next frames of the film it is shown how Samuel is mercilessly killed by the witch, and then a witch’s ointment is made from his blood.
Discord begins in the family. The grieving Katerina believes that they themselves are to blame for the tragedy that happened, and spends most of her days in prayer. William, on the other hand, is trying to provide food for his relatives, because the corn crop died due to an unknown disease, but everything is not going well, he can’t even shoot anything while hunting, and as a result he has to sell a silver cup, which is very dear to Katerina. Misunderstanding and squabbles escalate, cross the line between minor troubles and serious problems, and inexplicable events make the characters suspect each other of ungodly things.
Katerina is convinced that Thomasin is a fiend, and her mind is captured by the idea that the only way to escape is to kill her daughter. By coincidence, just at that time, Caleb, the middle son, disappears, and William, overcome with grief, cannot admit that the suffering that has befallen them is just a chain of fatal accidents, begins to believe his wife, suspecting a witch in his daughter. Rage, heartache, fanatical faith – this crazy cocktail hits the heroes in the head, the degree of conflict is growing rapidly.
What’s the point
The film “The Witch” is quite difficult to interpret – its interpretations are often contradictory. What is its meaning?
Witch hunt – aggression to the incomprehensible
In the past, people called so many events or things that they could not explain witchcraft and demanded to be destroyed immediately, especially often this happened in bad years – lean years, military, hungry. The mind tried to find the cause of the fallen sorrows and grabbed the most fantastic versions, if they allowed shifting the blame to someone and taking out anger on him.
Thomasin was different from her family – in behavior, way of thinking, aspirations – and this already caused dissatisfaction with her relatives. And it was very easy for Katerina, who constantly asked herself the question “For what?” for their vanity, the community turned away from the family.
Ergot and hallucinations
In the middle of the film, attention is drawn to the fact that all the corn has become unfit for food due to some unknown disease – all signs point to ergot. As you know, this is a hallucinogenic fungus, and there have been cases when people who practiced magical rituals used it on purpose – to open the third eye and set up a direct connection with the world of the dead.
Sudden epidemics brought with them devastation and panic. The main symptoms of ergot poisoning are severe pain, mental disturbances, and aggressive behavior. Hundreds of people literally threw themselves into fights, experiencing unimaginable torment, and their poisoned brain created terrifying illusions. It is likely that the family in The Witch movie suffered the same fate, and the only monster in this story is ergot.
Demons are not made, but born – true evil captures a person from the first breath. Thomasin and the witch in the forest who killed Samuel and Caleb and then kidnapped the twins are two faces of the same person. There was no devil, and Black Philip is just an ordinary goat, and the gradual transformation that the viewer sees is just a throwing off of masks, and Thomasin from the very first frame was a witch who, by deceit and tricks, pushed her family to the edge of the abyss.
How does it end
When the twins go missing and William is attacked by Black Philip, Katerina goes completely mad and attacks Thomasin. She, defending herself, accidentally kills her mother and loses consciousness. Waking up, she comes to Black Philip and agrees to a deal – the devil promises wealth and a well-fed life for her soul. In the last shots, Thomasin, completely naked, joins the witches’ coven, which symbolizes the unconditional victory of evil. In this duel, due to unreason and mental weakness, people could not understand what they were dealing with and how to deal with it.