Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse (2017) [Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival 2017]

A woman living in the Alps is surrounded by superstition, darkness, and possibly a touch of supernatural. Her life has started with darkness and may very well end in darkness.

From writer/director Lukas Feigelfeld, Hagazussa is a period film that deals with darkness, human and otherwise, in multiple forms and that creates a story where there is very little dialog. The lead is a girl when we first meet her and through chapters of her story, we see her as an adult and a mother. Her life is one that is anything but happy but it’s still interesting to watch. The film is a purposeful slow burn that will surely turn some off, but its feel and how it develops is something that fans of dark stories and character introspection should love. The film has a style that is similar to The VVitch from a couple of years ago and it also uses the time period its set in, religious fears, and supernatural elements in a way that surrounds the lead and creates something that is worth watching. The film uses a lot of visual cues and images that build up the story much more than the little bits of dialog. It’s one of those films that requires to be paid attention to not so much understand it but get something out of it. The story is not particularly complicated but it’s not simple either, it’s one of those where the viewer gets out of it what they want and that requires them to think a little. This leads to a mysterious film with a story that works but definitely not for everyone.

The cast here is composed of very few actors and the entire film revolved around the character of Albrun, the lead, played by Aleksandra Cwen who gives a sometimes poignant, sometimes chilling performance. Her work here is one that pulls the viewer in, gradually making them care for her character more than they even did for her character as a child and she makes the viewer’s impression of her change gradually, going back and forth between being sad for her and being puzzled as to why she is doing what she is doing. Her performance is central to the film and keeps it working throughout. Other performances in the film are also stunning with depth and sadness, including that of Albrun as a child and her mother figure. That child (whose name is unclear on the online credits) is a fantastic actress who handles tough situations beautifully.

The film’s look here is composed of costumes, décor, and images that all come together to create a film that is dark and sad on every angle, but also that works very well. The cinematography by Mariel Baqueiro is stunning, using the Alps and the grey weather to create powerful images. The camera work here is one of the elements that will keep the viewer glued to their screen. The images are beautiful and reminiscent of old paintings that would have been done in a grey, sad world. The images inside the lead’s house are less grey, warmer in tone, yet they carry that same sadness, something that permeates every image of the film.

Hagasuzza is a film that is of a beautiful darkness. It speaks to the deep, dark in everyone and takes uncomfortable situations and puts them front and center in a battle of good vs evil, of mental issues vs mental health, to create a story that has depth, complexity, and is worth getting through. The film is stunning and visually deep. The story is something that is not agreeable but definitely worth a watch. The supernatural elements are not central and may not even really be there, but it all works together beautifully. It’s a film full of sadness, beautiful darkness, and sorrow. Hagasuzza is a film that deals with abuse, loneliness, grief, mental illness and other elements that influence how someone can turn to darkness and give up on the light, it does so in a way that is beautiful and heartbreaking.

Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival 2017 ran from November 3rd to 12th, 2017.