Witchhammer ★★★★

Phew, that's a grueling ride. I'm imagining Otakar Vávra watching his Czech New Wave students get slowly stifled by the end of the Velvet Revolution; while he was always willing to go along with whatever regime was in charge, perhaps there was a bit of anger underneath? Because from the not so lofty perch of 2023, I can't read this as anything other than a brutal condemnation of Communist show trials.

"No, no, comrades; it's about the corruption of religion. Obviously."

In fact, as I watch more of the movies in the Severin folk horror boxed set, I'm beginning to notice the additional common thread in Kier-La Janisse's masterful curation. It's not always the church (although it often is), but there's always a tradition oppressing or threatening the protagonists. Witchhammer is no exception.

It's got the feel of a movie made by a master craftsman who'd been making movies for a long time. Interesting depth of space, good black and white cinematography, and a sense of control over the medium. It's slow at times, but that's Vávra setting the horrific moments into context. Small men doing small things, and then occasionally torturing people half to death, right?

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