ABOUT THE MOVIE’S SUBTEXTS
Because of the issue it deals with and for the world we are living in, sadly even in 10 – 20 years from now “Witch Hunt ” will always be a current film.
I truly loved it on so many levels. It is imbued with so many hidden meanings and subtexts which are never arrogant or overbearing. They go under your skin and you absorb them the same way the good opinions on Claire’s mind take form.
My favorite subtext is how it exposes women’s condition, how we are seen, fear and how our society tries to silence our voices. Powerful women terrify a lot of men and that is why there is a tendency to keep every woman under control in the most effective way they can think of. In this movie the parallel with our world is chilling.
I know that Elle chose the red hair’s physical aspect as the representation of the discrimination because her sister is a redhead, but the fact that redheads are always suspected to be witches is just another hidden message to say how some of us judge people based on the physical aspect. Society has ideas based on untrue information/fears about the race, the religion, the sexual orientation and the gender. The movie doesn’t talk only about women, but it is a sort of proud emblem for any kind of diversity and anyone can identify with those characters, judged because they are born that way.
The choice to have two black people who bring and take the witches from Martha’s house is amazing. Even with the choice of the cast there is a subtext. There is no woman in the BWI. And the choice to have only female bullies at school is also very smart, because the movie is not saying that all the men are bad. And I love that Martha has two young male sons and she tries to teach them tolerance and truth, she tries to teach her kids that diversity is not a bad thing, that being different is not anybody’s fault. That goes beyond her motivation of helping witches, it is how our society should work. All the parents should do that.
Witch Hunt is able to point out the same concept exposed in The Handmaid’s Tale about women, but it does that in a less heavy and overwhelming way, being just as effective. It is able to deliver its message, without generating anxiety, which is what I feel with The Handmaid’s Tale.
I love that Martha is the physical representation of good ideals.
The dialogue between Martha and her daughter when she asks her mom to stop doing what they are doing is mind-blowing. That scene is beautifully executed by both Liz and Gideon. The way Martha responds to Claire calling witches “them”, the tone of Liz’s voice speaks the entire message of the movie. There is no them. It’s us. It’s people and we should all work together while we walk on this Earth.
Martha and Claire’s bond is so strong, you can sense even from the way they fight, from the way they disagree.
What I love about Liz’s characters is that she always chooses women who fight. They don’t always win or survive, but they are not victims, they can be tortured, they can lose, they can die, but their ideals, their moral code, those don’t die, those always win. I think this is something that Liz has in herself and not just in the characters she chooses to play, but with these characters she’s able to deliver a message. Martha is one of them.
She is a brave woman, and not just because she helps witches, she is brave to live with the burden of not knowing about her daughter, with the possibility of losing her forever. No matter how she was preparing herself for that eventuality, accepting that the separation from your daughter is the only way to protect her is courageous and heartbreaking.
Liz’s acting is so matherly to both girls (Fiona and Shae), so mama bear for Martha’s own kids. The way she steps out to defend them is heart-warming.
No matter how difficult and dangerous the situation is, Martha always tries to have a sense of normality and lightheartedness (with the breakfast, the dinner, the tea) for her own kids and the witches she is helping and Elizabeth expresses that so beautifully, and I see so much of her in Martha. As one of the reviews I read lately says “she is a ray of sunshine”. Her wide smile (with her sweet eyes) spreads tranquility, calm and peace and that is just what Fiona and Shae need after what they went through and are going through. She instills safety portraying her so joyful especially when Martha shows the girls the secret house behind the walls. I felt it like an act of kindness in the kindness she was already offering. I love it.
I love how you can sense by her acting that Martha is worried about the whole situation of giving asylum to the witches and all the process of it. She’s nervous behind her closed doors. When Jacob picks up the witch and leaves, Liz puts her hands on the door and waits for a moment, as if it’s a relief that she is gone.
Martha is a hero, she believes in what she does, but she also has a personal interest and this personal interest or the possibility of this personal interest made her sensitive even more about the issue. “It’s complicated.”
At first you might wonder how a mother can risk her own kids’ safety to help strangers, you could misjudge her, but I think her insecurity (seeing her scared) helps the audience not to judge her before knowing her personal reason behind her actions.
The postcard that she hides from her daughter twice also helps a lot to make the audience understand that there is so much more we don’t know.
I think this movie is able to instill knowledge, to open minds and for a superficial audience it can provide entertainment without making you feel the weight of the social and political aspect that move the plot.
Oh I love how Claire’s asthma represents the oppression of the witches, and women in general, because all the women are subjected to these aberrations.
When the girls arrive and Shae is so scared… the two close-ups on Liz are just beautiful. There is a warm bright light on her face, to instill trust and goodness… like if Martha is those girls’ angel. I love it.
I laughed so much in that scene with the neighbor. Liz was terrific, hilarious, actually magnificent in it. I love that she made Martha feel so safe at staging that part (compared to when she had to act in front of the detective). It’s not that she is not nervous, but it was something that she got a little used to. It was probably what she did all her life and not just now that she is helping witches. When the neighbor arrives, she is perfectly fake. She plays the perfect gossip woman from the countryside.
It was totally different with the detective Hawthorne. You can feel that in that case Martha is actually worried, even if she tries to hide all the fears and acts normal.
And with Hawthorne, only when he doesn’t look, the audience can feel Martha is very worried.
The way she switches to “everything is perfectly fine, everything is normal, all you’re saying is so interesting.” to “I am actually terrified of being caught” is mindblowing. There is a specific moment when he steps away from Martha and Liz switches that expression on her face in less than a second. AAAAAAHHHH! Amazing!
Her body language in that scene… her hand behind her back… like if she is actually hiding something, and a perfect smiling face in front of him, while she is squeezing her dress’ bow like if that could help to keep her calm on the surface. Liz is a perfectionist.
Let me say that the actual shot of Liz in profile, where the audience can see the face that Martha is showing to Howthorne and also see what she is doing with her hands behind her back is brilliant. The audience can see the truth, the two sides of Martha (the worried one who is hiding something, and the fake one who is staging everything), while the detective can’t.
There is also that amazing shot of Liz’s back outside the house, when Howthorne leaves, where the audience can actually see her breathing worried, because her shoulder blades move deeply. Every single detail of her performance is incredible.
And when she smiles at Hawthorne, after he brings her home towards the end…she has this smile when she smiles with her lips while her eyes say otherwise… like “I hate you”. Chilling!
Liz lowers the tone of her voice when Fiona asks the reason behind Martha’s help. That is too personal, it cannot be revealed. Liz is incredible.
The last scene… the pain in her voice, the stuttering, finding the right words to explain, to speak her truth, to make her hurt daughter understand, mixed with the pain that she is feeling in that moment because she knows again something Claire has not realized yet: Martha can’t go with her. It is heartbreaking!
The direction and cinematography are pure Art. Aesthetic pleasure.
LOCATION AND COLORING
The location of the house is gorgeous. So many marvellous shoots and the coloring of the movie is just a pleasure for the eyes. I was very curious about the coloring when I read some reviews about it, they managed to get that saturation and beautiful colors even during the dark scenes, and I don’t think I have ever seen something like that before.
The outfits she wears are so on point with the atmosphere (the whole costume department). If she didn’t wear that pink dress during that scene on the porch, it would probably have been harder to see her breathing. Perfect choice.
I just want to say that the rest of the cast is amazing. All the girls are wonderful and Gamarco, Liz briefly worked with him on Double Bang, but I saw him on Dexter and he terryfied me there and also here. His calmness is chilling.
The music is perfect. It’s disquieting when it needs to be, but never disturbing. There are those movies where the music is overbearing, they want to make the audience feel uncomfortable, but they only distract people from the movie and they are annoying. Music needs to be there, but it never has to distract people from what they are watching. In “Witch Hunt” it’s all perfect.
I think this movie is a gem!