16 Fantastic Films About Witchcraft (Before Harry Potter)
15. Day Of Wrath (1943)
Snail paced, heavy going drama about witchcraft in Denmark in 1622. Anne is married to the much older Absalon Pedersson who is a pastor involved in the witch trials. Absalon's handsome young son Martin returns home and is smitten with Anne. The feeling is mutual and they frolic together happily. Absalon's mother Meret is a harsh old biddy who hates Anne and tries to dominate Absalon. An old woman known as Herlof's Marte is accused of witchcraft. Anne shelters her but she is found in the house. She lets Anne know that her own mother was spared from claims of witchcraft by Absalon who wanted to marry Anne. Herlof's Marte is tortured and confesses to witchcraft. Begging for her life, she threatens to tell everyone about Anne's mother but Absalon has her burned. He later hears Anne laugh for the first time and feels bad for marrying her. Absalon is visiting a parishioner who is dying as Herlof's Marte told him he would. When Absalon goes back home, Anne explodes, tells him she doesn't love him - she loves Martin - and she wishes Absalon would die. Absalon keels over clutching his heart. At the funeral Meret calls her a witch and Martin sides with his grandmother. Anne confesses to murdering her husband and bewitching his son which effectively signs her own death warrant. Directed by the great Carl Theodor Dreyer, Day of Wrath is a brilliant film but by golly it is austere. There is no comic relief or moments of levity in the movie. With the witchcraft torture scenes, it is weird to see all the men dressed alike with ruffs on their necks and clad in black. These are supposedly religious and educated men who are torturing and burning people due to spurious claims of witchcraft. Now I know it is the 1600s but such collective madness is absurd. It was just a widespread outbreak of sadism by powerful religious people hungry for blood and power, and a misguided zeal that they were doing the Lord's work. Dreyer does a good job in portraying the religious fervour that condemned so many women to death, but he also shows a softer side of the clergy in Absalon's love for his errant wife and his realisation he should never have married her. This is juxtaposed with his witch trials and torture. Everything is very solemn and bleak in the movie so it isn't a film you would watch with your mates on a night in - unless they are all art house fanatics, then they will love it and praise you on your impeccable taste
My first film watched was Carrie aged 2 on my dad's knee. Educated at The University of St Andrews and Trinity College Dublin. Fan of Arthouse, Exploitation, Horror, Euro Trash, Giallo, New French Extremism. Weaned at the bosom of a Russ Meyer starlet. The bleaker, artier or sleazier the better!