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HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE (2017)
Directed by Lukas Feigelfeld
Written by Lukas Feigelfeld
Starring Haymon Maria Buttinger, Aleksandra Cwen, Claudia Martini, Celina Peter, Tanja Petrovsky
Find out more about this film here, @HagazussaFilm, and on Facebook here
Filmed in the forests and plainlands of Austria and Germany, HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE is a transfixing experience into the stuff of pure dread. It’s a film that may be too dark for some to stomach but exudes a morbid beauty that will definitely move you.
Whittling down the narrative to a bare minimum, HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE is a simple tale of an outcast woman simply trying to live with her young child in a harsh winter during the 1400’s. Told in four parts, the film follows this woman through her life and then her daughters as pain and misery seems to be the one thing passed down through the generations for this unfortunate family. Once the old woman becomes ill, she begins to act erratically, frightening the young child Albrun and haunting her long after her mother’s death and into her adult years. The story follows Albrun into adulthood where she has made contact with a local village selling the milk from her goats in order to provide for her own young daughter. But when a village girl befriends Albrun after a group of kids torment her for being a witch, she seems to take joy for the first time with the new contact. This contact proves to be not so joyous, leaving Albrun a decimated woman on a road with utter despair as its destination.
This is not a film for everyone. If you enjoyed THE WITCH, but felt that the pacing on that film was way too fast for you, this might be something right up your alley. The film is told in four or five beats with long droning music and slow movements interconnecting those beats, but all in all, this is storytelling at its barest. Still, the beats of the story are so loud and leave such an impact that it makes the long lulls in between worthwhile moments to let these horrific events resonate and for the viewer to come to grips with the awful things that are occurring.
This is a film about the unbelievable burden of motherhood—a topic as relevant now as it was back in the 1400’s. While the term witch is used, there really is no real sorcery at work here. Life and the unfortunate hand of fate are the real monsters in this tale. What occurs in this film chilled me to the core. Much of the feels I got from this film relies on the fearless performance by actress Aleksandra Cwen who plays the adult Albrun. While much of this film is without dialog, she conveys every ounce of tragedy and horror with her facial expressions, hypnotic gait, and body language. This film is a one woman show and Cwen bears the weight expertly.
The soundtrack to HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE is something I must own. Droning, resonant, and constant—the music and chorus that accompany Albrun on this harrowing journey become a character themselves. This is an experience rather than a film—art house horror at its best. Reminiscent in tone to last year’s THE EYES OF MY MOTHER, HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE is a truly morbid tale of the worst life has to offer and the struggle to still survive it. This will not be the witch’s brew for some who like their horror boppy and fun. But if you are looking for a film that will transport you into a land of bitter chills, soul-searing horrors, and the depths of one’s soul, this moody and morose monster of a film will definitely put a spell on you.