Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse (2018)
Review by Annie Riordan
Starring: some German people, some goats, and a mushroom. Sadly, no badgers.
Synopsis: Never do shrooms. Also, do not attempt to eat soup whilst watching this movie.
Man, this fucking movie. I watched it like two weeks ago and it took me that long to talk myself into writing a review for it. But how could I not? It has the word HAG right in the fucking title! And it’s German! But man… ugh.
Set in, what – like, 1400 somethingorother in a tiny little flyspeck village way up in the mountains of Northern Bumblefuckistanberg, this film couldn’t possibly be bleaker, colder, or more depressing if you took away its Zoloft, tied it to a chair in a cellar, taped its eyelids to its forehead, and forced it to read the entire unabridged Jean Paul Sartre collection. There are black metal bands in the asscracks of Norway who only dream of achieving this level of ruination and grim, frostbitten despair. I was so catastrophically hollowed by this film that I had to listen to six straight hours of Gorgoroth to cheer myself the fuck up. This is the cinematic equivalent of tossing kittens into a stump grinder.
You know the old song about The Lonely Goatherd? Yeah, that’s pretty much little Albrun and her mother, who live all alone, high on a hill, with their goat herd. Yo-dah-lay-ee-oo. Life is pretty simple and straightforward: chop firewood, milk goats, get warned to be home before dark or a witch will kill you, etc. Albrun’s father is never seen nor mentioned, and her mother soon becomes deathly ill, bedridden and not expected to recover. Except she does, weirdly. Just long enough to lure little Albrun into bed and either attempt to molest her or eat her, take your pick. Albrun escapes, mother runs screaming off into the wintry night and dies, and fast forward twenty years.
Albrun is now a young woman with an infant daughter of her own. She lives in the same cabin and seems to be milking the same goats, whose milk she tries to sell to the villagers, without much success. Rumor has it she’s a witch, and those who don’t taunt her tend to ignore her completely. Well, except for Swinda, a busty little wench with an easy smile who strikes up a friendship with the solemn, solitary Albrun. Swinda’s initial attempts at chit-chat go unanswered, but she doesn’t seem to notice or care. For almost an hour, I thought maybe Albrun was mute because she doesn’t even respond to polite inquiries. She doesn’t answer when Swinda asks who her daughter’s father is/was. She doesn’t say “boo” when the village priest presents her with the preserved and painted skull of her long deceased mother. She just returns to her cabin and sets the skull up on an altar, where it stares gloomily for the rest of the film.
Swinda visits Albrun’s cabin with an allegorical apple in hand and lures Albrun away to meet a friend of hers. Albrun, apparently tired of masturbating while fondling her goats udders (no I did NOT make that up) follows Swinda dutifully into the woods and learns too late that her new friend had ulterior motives all along. Raped, betrayed and abandoned, Albrun swiftly loses touch with reality. As the sun begins to set, so does Albrun’s grip on her already tremulous sanity. Does the darkness swallow Albrun whole, or does she willingly descend into it? Is she a witch, or has she been cursed by one?
It’s hard to tell, and the movie doesn’t really seem to care one way or another. Cinematically, Hagazussa is stunning, stuffed to bursting with beautiful shots of snow frosted pines, green mountains, and eerie bogs. The camera lingers long and lovingly on water, bones and shadows. But it doesn’t seem to have any real use for its characters. It has a fairy tale to tell, and like any good collection of Grimms’, it has plenty of full color illustrations and gilt-edged pages, but no real substance. Here’s what happened, it seems to blankly state. This, and this, and then this. The end. And you’re left staring at the screen, wondering what the fuck you just watched, and why you did so. What the hell just happened?
Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself. Was this a mind-blowing, surrealistic work of art, or a nonsensical and unnecessarily depraved ritual which justifies its sickness with a pretty backdrop? Or both? I still don’t know. And honestly, this. movie. moves. sooooooo. very. very. slowly. That I doubt many will have the patience to see it through to the end.