I finally got to watch The Witch on January second, and it was fantastic. A lot of research and care went into this film. The costumes, the dialect, the word choice, everything was spot on. The only criticism the Best Girlfriend in the World could come up with was that they didn’t use tallow candles, they weren’t smokey enough, and were too white to be beeswax.
The plot of The Witch is that a Puritan family is expelled from their colony, and have to try to survive alone in the wilderness. This movie points out how exile from a settlement often did spell death for the exiled. Crops could go bad, illness, injury, wild animals. After their exile, the baby is snatched away while the older girl is playing peek a boo with it. Next the twins who look to be about 5 or 6 are being horrid and the older girl tries to scare them into behaving by claiming to be a witch like they’ve called her. They also claim that the family goat, Black Phillip, talks to them and tells them she’s a witch. The mother’s silver cup goes missing, granted the father admitted to his son earlier that he had traded it for traps. Then, the older son goes missing while trying to hunt enough that they don’t have to send the older girl off to work for another family.
All through the movie the things that happen could be the result of natural phenomena, maybe a wolf did steal the baby. Maybe the noises in the dark are just animals. Maybe the older son returning naked and fevered is the result of something he ate in the woods trying to find his way back and the witch is a hallucination. The family’s corn harvest is afflicted with a mold but if there’s nothing else to eat.
Several people reviewing this film have basically said, “Spoiler: the Patriarchy is the villain.” And it is. The family are condemned to exile because the father is prideful and claims to be the only one in the settlement actually preaching the word of God. If it weren’t for a rigid belief system, and the father’s adherence to it they wouldn’t be in the mess they’re in. And it underscores the cruelty of exile in colonial America.
The cinematography is gorgeous. The acting is incredible. The environment becomes another character in the story, especially the woods. Are the witches real? Maybe. Maybe they’re figments and hallucinations from the minds of dying colonists, taking the form of that which they fear most.