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quarta-feira, 24 de fevereiro de 2016

Review: In ‘The Witch,’ a Family’s Contract With God Is Tested

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Anya Taylor-Joy in “The Witch.” CreditA24
A finely calibrated shiver of a movie, “The Witch” opens on a scene of religious wrath. On a New England plantation, around 1630, a true believer, William (Ralph Ineson), and his family are facing a grim assemblage. The setting is a kind of meeting house crowded with men, women and children, a congregation whose silence and unsmiling faces imply disapproval or perhaps fear. Whether they’re standing in judgment doesn’t matter to William, whose arrogant faith in his own notion of Christianity is as deep and darkly unsettling as his sepulchral voice. It’s the sort of soul-and-earth-quaking voice you can imagine one of the biblical patriarchs having, the kind that Abraham used on God and Isaac alike.
Written and directed by Robert Eggers, “The Witch ” takes place in an America that in its extremes feels more familiar than its period drag might suggest. It’s set a decade after the Mayflower landed in Plymouth and tracks William’s family as it leaves the plantation to settle down alone at the edge of a forest. There, the family members build a farm, grow corn and commit themselves to God, a contract tested by a series of calamities that turn this story of belief into a freak-out of doubt. As the wind stirs the trees and the children taunt one another with talk of witches, you may remember that the movie’s subtitle is “A New-England Folktale.” Something wicked this way comes?
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Anatomy of a Scene | ‘The Witch’

Robert Eggers narrates a sequence from his film.
 By MEKADO MURPHY on Publish DateFebruary 11, 2016. Photo by A24. Watch in Times Video »
Mr. Eggers knows how to dress a room beautifully and establish a mood quickly. He has a background working on sets and costumes across the arts (his credits include “Sesame Street” and the theater group La MaMa), and the world he and his team conjure in “The Witch” is meticulous and immersive. From the start, with antiqued detail, naturalistic lighting and tightly packed bodies, he signals the claustrophobia of the plantation, where religious fanaticism meets groupthink. Within minutes William’s family is on its lonely road, an exodus that — underlined by the image of the colony gates closing — instills a tremor of anxiety. With a gentle rap-rapping, Mr. Eggers intensifies the shivers with art-film moves, genre shocks and an excellent cast that includes a progressively rowdy menagerie.
At first, these creatures skitter around the edge of the story, their baaing and barking creating a homey cacophony with the giddy squeals of the family’s children. From afar the farm looks as pretty as a needlepoint sampler, with its belching chimney, stacks of corn and quaintly dressed figures. Closer up, though, the scene appears harder, tougher, and so do William and his wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie), a pair of Grant Wood prototypes. Their pinched and planed faces make a graphic contrast with that of their eldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), whose peaches-and-cream complexion looks too insinuatingly succulent for a world of such punitive austerity. Even when their corn blackens — William and Katherine prove to be terrible farmers — Thomasin remains in bloom.

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Movie Review: ‘The Witch’

The Times critic Manohla Dargis reviews “The Witch.”
 By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER and ROBIN LINDSAY on Publish DateFebruary 18, 2016. Photo by Rafy/A24, via Associated Press. Watch in Times Video »
The story of the New England Puritans is itself a folk tale that’s been told, retold and fought over through generations of Thanksgiving school pageants, endless productions of “The Crucible” and historical revisionism. Mr. Eggers has looked elsewhere for inspiration, including period accounts like those of Cotton Mather, the Boston minister who influenced the lethal 1692 Salem Witch Trials that Arthur Miller turned into McCarthy-era theater. It wouldn’t be surprising if Mr. Eggers was also familiar with “The White Ribbon,” Michael Haneke’s 2009 film about God and patriarchy, authority and domination in Germany before World War I. There are gods and fathers in “The Witch” as well, even if this movie finally settles into a specifically American story about a catastrophe of faith.
Good horror movies make fright palpable, which Mr. Eggers does with dependably spooky stuff like abrupt edits that fall as heavily as William’s ax and shifts in sound levels that fill silences with a choral caterwauling. But Mr. Eggers’s sharpest decision, what makes you and the movie jump, is that he stays inside the characters’ worlds and heads, all disastrously close quarters. These are people who fervently believe both in the Devil and in God, and for whom witches are as real as trees; it’s no wonder that their inability to tame the New World blurs with their fears. The finale is a trip, but Mr. Eggers suggests that when crops and sanity each fail it misses the point to ask if the Devil exists. Of course he does — just read Cotton Mather or talk to the scene-stealing goat called Black Phillip.
“The Witch” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for toil and trouble. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes.

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