Ithaca Fantastik Movie Review: HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE (2017)

It wasn’t until after I had finished Lukas Feigelfeld’s new feature film, HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE, that I found out not only is it his debut feature, but also his film school graduation project. After pursuing photography in Vienna, Feigelfeld made the decision to switch his path to filmmaking in hopes that he would have more opportunities for storytelling. After enrolling in the Film Academy in Germany (Deutsche Film-und Fernsehakademie Berlin), he began his eight year journey in film education that would end in one hell of a grand finale with his directorial and feature film debut, HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE; a moody, atmospheric masterpiece reminiscent of the 2015 Robert Eggers film, The Witch.

Set in the 15th century Austrian Alps, the film tells the story of a young girl, Albrun (Celina Peter) and her mother, Martha (Claudia Martini), who face the judgement and superstitions of local town folk who accuse them of pagan practices and witchcraft because of their solitary life in a little cabin near the woods. After Martha falls ill and suffers a horrific fate, Albrun is left traumatized and orphaned. The film then jumps ahead quite a few years and we find a grown Albrun (Aleksandra Cwen) with her own child, living the same kind of solitary life she once knew with her own mother. She spends her days alone, except for the company of her infant daughter and her goats whom she tends to and in turn they provide her with milk, cheese, and some sort of erotic pleasure? In one particular scene, we see her milking one of her goats which progresses into sensually bathing her hands in the milk and proceeding to pleasure herself, only to be interrupted by an ill-intentioned neighbor who drops by for a visit. Hesitant to trust, yet longing for some kind of human interaction, she begins to spend some time with this neighbor woman whose intentions turn out to be as malicious and sinister as the evils she’s been accused of her whole life. After yet another traumatic and torturous experience, she begins to embrace the evil she has been condemned of and slowly begins to unravel, soon reaching her inevitable demise that makes Darren Aronofsky’s late mother! feel like a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park.

Although HAGAZUSSA contained many familiar tones and seemed to be inspired by some well known films of a similar style, Lukas Feigelfeld truly has his own unique voice and knack for storytelling. The film has very little dialogue, but that’s not to say it is lacking in anyway. HAGAZUSSA is packed to the brim with astonishing visuals, from breathtaking views of the Austrian Alps and ominous shots of the dark forest, to grotesque imagery of a variety of dead things, all providing a diverse, scrumptious feast for the eyes. Feigelfeld’s previous career in photography is palpable in the artistic direction of each and every scene; the film providing a perfect representation of true Art-House Horror. In an interview with Jonny Tiernan of FvF, Feigelfeld was asked about the lack of dialogue and heavy imagery used in his work and he
explains that he feels “like I can tell a better story through pictures and moods than through explaining it in dialogue”. Such a technique doesn’t work for every film, but for Feigelfeld’s
stylish storytelling, it’s exactly what a film like HAGAZUSSA calls for.

Much like Robert Eggers and his directorial debut back in 2015, Lukas Feigelfeld knocks his first feature film out of the park. With so much artistic talent at his disposal, he is sure to be a promising new filmmaker and I am looking forward to whatever imaginative new story he comes up with next. HAGAZUSSA: A HEATHEN’S CURSE has yet to receive an official release date, so keep an eye out for this one if you’re a fan of chilling, Art-House Horror.

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