Hagazussa: A Heathen's Curse
hagazussa: a heathen's curse | hagazussa | history | lukas feigelfeld | aleksandra cwen | celina peter | claudia martini | germany | austria | drama | tanja petrovsky | haymon maria buttinger | 2019 horror | arthouse
Film: Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse
Director: Lukas Feigelfeld
Writer: Lukas Feigelfeld
Starring: Aleksandra Cwen, Celina Peter and Claudia Martini
This was a film that kind of came out of no where for me. A trailer randomly popped up at the theater I’m a member at and then I remember seeing the poster. When I saw there were show times for it, I caught it at an 11:30 pm showing. The synopsis is just paranoia & superstition in 15th Century Europe.
The film is broken into four chapters. The first of which is Shadows. We see a young girl, Albrun (Celina Peter) with her mother, Claudia Martini, as they are moving through a snowy landscape. They pass by a person on the way to their cabin. The mother becomes sick with something and Albrun does what she can to save her. A priest comes and we se these large welts on her body. The mother seems to get better from her illness, but is quite creepy. It should also be pointed out, Albrun has her first period and is ashamed of it. It also seems like she doesn’t understand what it was.
From here it jumps into the future. Albrun (Aleksandra Cwen) is now an adult and has a baby of her own. Much like her mother, she is considered to be a witch and people are mean to her. Another woman, Swinda (Tanja Petrovsky) befriends her, but from some looks we see, she is attracted while also being leery of her.
During the chapters of Bone, Blood and Fire, things take quite the turn when Albrun has something happen to her when she goes off with Swinda, she is given a skull from the new priest and her baby’s cries become a bit much as Albrun tries to navigate the difficult life living in the wilderness alone.
Something about this film I really liked was the atmosphere and the setting of it. Being the time period, life was hard, especially if you live out in isolation like Albrun does. She and her mother were considered to be witches when she was little. This seems to be in a time when Christianity had just caught on, but those that still stuck with the old ways were considered witches. We never learn anything of Albrun’s or her baby’s father is, so that also contributes to it, thinking that it was the devil that impregnates them for their service to following his ways.
This concept here is part of the reason that I don’t believe in religion, the judging of others. Their religion tells them not to, but they still do it anyways with a ‘holy than thou art’ mentality. Something that happens to Albrun when she goes off with Swinda was quite sad. The film also has another possible encounter. The way it was shot, we don’t really know if it is happening or if Albrun just thinks it is happening.
That brings me to something else I really liked about the film. Albrun is isolated, living in the middle of nowhere with just her baby and some goats. She is able to get milk and make cheese from them. There does seem to be people somewhat nearby and it does seem like she trades what she can for other things. Being alone like this, we see that she is descending into madness. She isn’t able to sleep as her baby is struggling to latch on to the nipple to eat. The mind plays tricks when you are isolated and I thought that was an interesting idea to present here. It also can from the lack of sleep, which is something else the film is presenting.
The pacing of the film was a little bit off though. It really is a slow-burn type film where things just build over time. The problem I personally felt was that they could probably trim a bit rom this. It just goes on a little bit too long at times. I really get the arthouse way to presenting things, but some of the 102 runtime probably wasn’t needed. The payoff at the end probably won’t be liked by many people, but personally for me, I think it is fitting for the mental state of Albrun as well as the chapter it happens.
Acting for the film was definitely important, especially with such a small cast of characters. Cwen was really good. She actually carries most of the film. She doesn’t have a lot of lines, as she is alone quite a bit. She does a really good job with presenting things through her body language. There is the scene where Swinda takes her on a walk though, she seems to be happy to be with someone and how the sequence ends was saddening. Peter was solid as the child version of Albrun. They played the role in similar ways which really helps the film. Martini was good as the mother and she gets quite creepy too. The rest of the cast was fine and rounded out the film for what was needed for sure.
As to the effects of the film, there really weren’t many. First off they didn’t need them. This is really a film that built on the atmosphere and what is going on in Albrun’s mental staet. Everything was done practically from what I could tell and it really makes it seem like this really happened. The film was shot beautifully, with the landscapes and the locations that were selected.
The final thing to cover would have to be the soundtrack. Something I found really interesting is that we really have a natural, Earthy almost sounding music that fits the scene. When things start to get heavy, the score is played really loud which really makes it tense. I could feel this getting my anxiety going and that is something I tend to look for in films like this. This is actually one of the best aspects of the film.
Now with that said, I was excited to check this film out and I think that it ended up being something close to what I wanted. It is interesting in the setting and the time period it takes place. It was already a rough go to survive and when you mix in the isolation and the fear of those being different, it really helps as well. I thought the acting was good and the soundtrack really helped to drive the tension. I do think that it was a bit long and it could have been tightened up there, but it does have a fitting an end. There’s not in the way of effects. It is shot beautifully though and the locations really seem like this really happened at some point as well. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone. If you like more arthouse, slow-burn type films, give this a viewing. I personally found this to be a good movie.
My Rating: 8 out of 10