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Film of the Week #354: Kladivo na carodejnice AKA Witchhammer (1970)
The time is the seventeenth century. The beggar Maryna Schuchová hides the Host in her scarf at the Communion. She admits to the parish priest Schmidt that she intended to give it to the midwife Groerová to heal her ailing cow. The young priest declares her a witch and convinces the Sumperk countess De Galle to summon the inquisitor Boblig from Edelstadt.
This failed student of law sees the offer as a great opportunity. He uses torture and threats to force the women from the to testify to their meetings with the devil and learn by heart the lies he has made up for the inquisition tribunal. Boblig accuses the wealthy burghers of witchcraft as well, and so wants to seize their possessions.
#391 on 500<400, with 241 checks.
Nominated by Cocoa and joachimt.
This movie fits the current Horror Challenge.
Here #391(⇩84, #307) Kladivo na carodejnice (1970)
Directed by: Otakar Vávra
(330.5 Pts, 13 Votes) , Top 1–10–50: 0–0–3
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Mysterious Dude (132)
is a schedule of all the FotWs.
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Good movie. I saw this a year and a half ago, right after watching Dablova Past. It was unintentional that I saw two Czechoslovak movies about witchcraft in sequence. Just a weird coincidence.
A day or two later, I was introduced to someone new, who asked me what I liked to do in my spare time. I mentioned movies, and he asked what I had seen most recently. And I had to say two Czechoslovak movies about witchcraft, and he gave me that look you sometimes give newly met people -- the "is this person a weirdo?" look.
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One of my favorite villains. Just pure evil!
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You read the title and you know the content already, the horror, the superstition, the mercilessness, the injustice, the helplessness. You know the history (at least the main points), you know it will be unpleasant so why watch it?
Maybe because the movie manages to not be exploitative, there's so much room for torture but if anything, it downplays a reality that was even worse. It manages to paint a memorable villain where other films prefer to just minimalistically give us the ugly faces of human injustice and evil, like in Häxan or The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc (not saying these films don't deserve their status). He is given such power again after such a long time and he abuses it as much as he can and does anything to stay in power.
Ultimately such massacres make use of people's superstitions but the ones in charge of it are not driven by a conviction that they actually help fighting evil/the devil. Superstition is called a sin by those who require it for their plans. Everything is calculated and there's always a way to profit from more suffering. There's ways to get the confession you'd like and there's no way to prove your innocence because there's no interest in guilt, just personal interest. If not to gain possessions, then to save yourself from the machinery. Once witchcraft didn't provide an excuse anymore, there is always another one that you can find. It is suggested that there's parallels to Stalin's clean-outs (I don't know enough about that part of history to verify it). Arthur Miller used witches' processes to mirror the clean-out of communists. Reality might not be as dogmatic as that but Witchhammer leaves little hope for justice.
The movie is a bit like that thumb screw. You know it will crush and there's no real option to stop it. It made me wish there was actually some kind of divine force of justice or karma out there. It's disheartening to know that there is not.