the witch influences 2

It’s very satisfying to work like that. The whole crew is extremely united and everyone knows what this high bar is. Additionally, I had a lot of time with [Jarin Blaschke], the director of photography, to work out what this would be. We spent time in recreations of 17th century colonial hovels with light meters and candles and trying to figure out what this would actually be. The shots were incredibly planned. Much to the editor’s despair, it was mostly shot cut in camera, just because we had so little time. The film is 91 minutes and the first assembly was 95 minutes. We just had to plan!

One of the most celebrated aspects of The Shining is how it takes place in a single hotel that grows increasingly surreal and unsettling. It’s a place that doesn’t make sense. The Witch is also a one-location movie, taking place in a farmhouse and the surrounding woods. Did you draw anything from The Shining when you created this setting?

Uh…no. [Laughs] What’s really brilliant about The Shining that is the exact opposite of The Witch is that, for me, The Shining is sort of like using movie artifice to its advantage. It’s using the difficulty of getting a naturalistic performance to its advantage. It’s using the set-iness of the sets and the fact that everything is lit and that there are no shadows. It doesn’t have a horror movie atmosphere in a traditional way. Everything is out there and it feels off. David Lynch learned a lot from that and utilizes that all the time in his performances. That off-ness.

I’m sort of not doing any of that. That’s the genius of The Shining, which has nothing to do with this film. I’m more interested with The Witch in creating a credible atmosphere that you can smell, that is my childhood memory of the 17th century. My childhood nightmares of the 17th century. Which is different. I think the Shining is more creepy and more successful because of [Kubrick’s] genius in that way.

Another similarity, whether intentional or not, is that both films are told from the point of view of a younger person in the family, the teenage daughter in your movie and Danny in The Shining. Both films have supernatural elements, but they’re really about these kids watching their families fall apart around them.

It’s interesting…I think that a lot of first time filmmakers make films about kids and stuff because we were kids not too long ago. The director of Partisan, Ariel Kleiman, said that in an interview recently and I think it’s really true. For me, the worldview of the Puritans is so exotic and strange to contemporary people that it needed to be from the children’s eyes in order to understand the world. We have Caleb, who has a better grasp of it, and Thomasin, who absolutely doesn’t. When I was beginning to understand what this story was, I went into it starting with the kids for that reason and it ended up working out in a number of ways, including what you mentioned.


Our conversation will continue tomorrow as we dive into Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages.

The Witch is in theaters February 19.

the witch poster


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