Let’s not even pretend this film fits into the month’s springtime theme. We wanted a witch film, ok? And my guess is you’re in favor too, unless you happened across this blog by chance or used the search terms “three-penised monster” and ended up here (thanks, Spike Lee).
If you’re here on purpose, it seems unlikely you’re surprised or disappointed by any witch content that follows.
Coven of Sisters
After being detained under suspicion of witchcraft, a group of young women in 17th century Spain invent stories of the witches’ Sabbath to stall for time.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to torture people with the full backing of church and state, there are worse places to be than 1600s Spain. Having (apparently) cleared the cities of heretics, the Inquisition is off to the rural Basque country. …Where no one is expecting them.
Upon arriving, lead inquisitor Rostegui is quick to identify suspected witches: a group of young women who engage in radical behavior like taking walks & occasionally going into the woods. There should be few obstacles to draw out confessions and then execute the witches, particularly as all of the local men are away at sea, expected back shortly after the full moon’s tides.
Initially attempting to laugh off the absurdity of the witchcraft accusations, the group plans to stall for time by making up stories about their occult practices. Faced with the reality of torture, drawing things out proves next to impossible. Meanwhile, local priest Padre Cristóbal does very little in the way of helping his parishioners, actively scheming with the inquisitors to avoid suspicion falling in his direction.
Ringleader Ana realizes a common thread among the interrogations: the witches’ Sabbath. Not knowing entirely what it is, Rostegui is fixated on getting details & even witnessing the dark ritual for himself. Taking advantage of his creepy obsession, Ana invents obscene elements like turning her friends into farm animals and forest dancing in secret (the worst kind of dancing).
Claiming credit for all of the witchy goings-on in order to save her friends, Ana promises to reenact the witches’ Sabbath on the night of the next full moon. Will her plan buy enough time to avoid a fate worse than the comfy chair?
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
This is by no means a bad film, though by far the least fun witch movie we’ve seen. There’s a clever bit of ambiguity at the film’s conclusion that offers some hope, but mostly this is relentlessly bleak.
I really enjoy the concept of those accused of witchcraft just full-on messing with the inquisitors. And, depending on your interpretation of the ending, faking witchcraft ultimately leading to the real thing. The line between reality & pretend is a very Shakespearean interest…along with basically every horror that starts with teens bringing out a Ouija board for laughs.
The artistry of the film is gorgeous too; there are quite a few scenes that draw inspiration from Baroque paintings, making it easy to feel absorbed by the film. I’m always ready to get lost in a period drama, and the ambience created by the staging, lighting, and small details in the scenes certainly helps.
Where this film is frustrating, however, is on its focus on men & patriarchy. Since the criticism is centered primarily on men, unfortunately most of the discussions are about all of the nonsense they want to talk about. As a result, the men also have more defined personalities and significantly more agency than the women. I do enjoy the battle of wills between Ana and Rostegui, but I remember very little about any of the other women, in part because of the film’s examination of the structures of power. The women do have some personality, but this is stripped away almost immediately upon their arrest & interrogation.
I could have done with a bit (a lot) more of the witchy schemes.