Deep, dark and disturbing Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse is the debut film of Lukas Feigelfeld that has been setting the festival scene alight. Stark and shocking his combination of spectacular scenery and minimal story form a brutal and brilliant tale of the torturous life of the leading character.
Set at the turn of the 15th Century we meet Albun as a young girl living with her mother (Claudia Martini) in an isolated and intolerant Alpine village. Hated by all those around them and branded as witches there life is hard but when her mother gets a mysterious illness things go from bad to worse.
Years later Albun (Aleksandra Cwen) is now older and although her only parent has passed she has become a mother herself looking after her bonny baby girl and selling goats milk to make ends meet. Day to day life is much the same until the beguiling and kind Swinda (Tanja Petrovsky) takes an interest in Albun and the two become friends.
However the cursed girls life was never meant to take her towards happiness and soon Albun finds herself plunged into darkness, despair and anger, an anger that must be unleashed or it will eat her away.
A bleak portrayal of how a local community can ostracise and abuse someone purely because of their difference the message of Hagazussa is universal and Albun’s decent into pain, misery and madness is as identifiable as it is horrific. Most interestingly of all is the fact that there is no clear evidence that Albun or her mother are witches as every event could be read in multiple ways further hammering home the terrible prejudice they suffer.
Giving a great turn Aleksandra Cwen totally commits to the role and even though she has few lines the emotional power behind her performance is palpable. Just as present is the constant sense of dread that permeates each scene tarnishing the breathtaking vistas we often see during the film and highlighting the evil lurking in every corner of the land.
Hagazussa is not for the faint hearted and its relentlessly grim motifs, moments and mood make it difficult to stomach at times however this is clearly Feigelfeld’s intention. Although the movie is far from gratuitous some may find certain scenes too much to take as themes of sex and death, life and destruction push the boundaries mainstream movies would avoid.
Other viewers though will appreciate Feigelfeld and Hagazussa’s bravery because in taking Albun and the audience to rock bottom and beyond there is a real attempt to lay bare the result of what a lifetime of abuse from everyone around you can do.
Packed with extras the director approved limited edition comes with audio commentaries by critic and author Kat Ellinger and writer-director Lukas Feigelfeld as well as two short films by the director amongst other extras. Best of all you also get the complete Hagazussa Soundtrack by MMMD which is as brooding and bold as the film itself.