Stranger Says: Slow, cruel, and ghoulishly beautiful, Hagazussa chronicles the deterioration of an outcast woman in 15th-century Austria. Shunned single mother Albrun, haunted by her own mother’s death from plague, lives in a mountain hut and farms goats. One day, she lets down her guard to a seemingly kind villager named Swinda, a mistake with catastrophic results. The story is not as dramatically satisfying as The Witch, a comparison that seems inevitable. But first-time director Lukas Feigelfeld’s concept is as scary as anything in the festival: religious persecution spurring its victims to ever-greater masochistic transgressions.
SIFF Says:In 15th century Austria, a cold winter lies heavy upon the Alps, while superstition reigns unquestioned over the local peasantry. In a remote alpine hut, Albrun and her mother live upon a meager subsistence, herding goats and foraging the nearby forest for food. But when her mother dies of a mysterious illness, leaving Albrun orphaned at an early age, she is left traumatized and alone, all but shunned by the nearby villagers—a situation only made worse, some twenty years later, when she bears her own child out of wedlock. However, one villager, the mysterious Swinda, lures Albrun into an uneasy friendship, tempting her with sensual delights. Meanwhile, outside, the eerie voice of her mother calls from the dark, gloomy woods. Are these the nightmarish cries of a deluded mind or a true force of supernatural evil? In his feature film debut, director Lukas Feigelfeld delivers an engaging, meditative piece of the Fantastique, filled with atmospheric, gothic imagery and a lush, evocative sound design. While reminiscent of 2016’s THE WITCH, HAGAZUSSA also draws upon such cult masterpieces as THE COMPANY OF WOLVES and ERASERHEAD to formulate a unique art-house chiller with a macabre, psychedelic climax.
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