Eight-Legged Freaks it isn’t. I was immediately put in mind at the beginning of The VVitch. The same grubby existence in a time better best forgotten. With all due respect, German/Swiss German is not the most romantic of languages, what with all the hacking and throat-clearing (imagine an impatient Welshman, but angrier) but as is usually the case, the acting benefits greatly from the subtitles, for the purposes of audience immersion, if nothing else.
‘Comely Wench’ Christine (Lilith Stangenberg, thanks Imdb) is a midwife in this godforsaken place but upon the arrival of German Knights one fairly pleasant bell-ringing morning, she makes a grubby deal with the devil to save her village from all of the nefarious savaging they inevitably bring with them. This never bodes well, as we have learnt previously. I mean really, the Devil can be a real nuisance and as we all know, is not to be trusted.
The film enjoys some very effective and impressive performances, especially from Stangenberg, and benefits greatly from a well-considered location and some dramatic cinematography. The tone is just right also, bringing the fear of, well everything, to a small 13th-century village, with overtones of hardship and suffering at the hands of formidable aggressors.
By all accounts, not including my own as I haven’t read it, the adaptation from the 18th-century novel by Swiss writer Jeremias Gotthelf is overwhelmingly faithful and imaginatively recreated here and at a smidge under two hours, never becomes close to becoming a trial.
In all, a highly engaging project, if you enjoy this type of thing, even if the masses may dismiss it, given the chance, for something less challenging and more palatable.
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