The venerable Film Comment has started publishing video essays! Their first entry is a brilliant piece on witches in film by Pam Grossman. Grossman’s research was extensive, and fascinating. We see clips from many countries, times, and aesthetics here; the 16-minute video should answer anyone’s questions about the roles of witches in film, who played them, what movies they appeared in, and how they’ve changed over time. Grossman offers us the obvious roles that everyone knows, of course, from Angelina Jolie’s stepmother in Maleficent to the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz–but she also digs significantly deeper into film history to roll out clips from Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, George Miller’s The Witches of Eastwick and George Romero’s Season of the Witch. The crucial message here is that the state of being a witch–should we call it witchery?–is empowering to the witch, and potentially either threatening or helpful to those within the reach of her wand. On this tour of cinematic witch history, Grossman takes us from a Scandinavian silent film all the way up to the present day, being careful to show the ambivalence of the witch figure throughout, even highlighting such films as The Craft, in which witchcraft is both an agent of needed revenge (as an outlet for teen angst) and problematic for its young users. This expertly edited and thoughtfully executed piece would be an informative watch for anyone interested in the history of witchcraft or the changing face of the occult in film.
Watch: A Video Essay About Witches in Film