Film Review: Hagazussa – A Heathen’s Curse

Lukas Feigelfeld’s Hagazussa – A Heathen’s Curse must be one of the bleakest films of the year. The film is strange, foreboding, but ultimately uneven.

A young girl lives with her mother in an isolated mountain hut in 15th century Austria. When her mother becomes ill, it is the start of a traumatic time for Albrun, one that continues later in her adult life…

Lukas Feigelfeld brings a number of elements into play with his feature debut. Hagazussa – A Heathen’s Curse features pagan superstitions, supernatural allusions, and a protagonist whose mental state is teetering on the brink. Some of these aspects are more successful than others, yet they meld together rather well.

The film can be classified as a horror, sitting on the psychological side of the spectrum. Hagazussa does not easily fit the category however, offering elements of other genres; aspects of the period drama are present here. The film offers a meditative approach to its subject. The central narrative gives way to a focus on the protagonist and her mental state. As the film progresses, the events become more surprising, and the narrative becomes ever looser.

The film is divided into segments, and some of these are more coherent than others. The penultimate part feels like a lucid dream, or nightmare. Whilst the film is very bleak, here this becomes a little dull. There is horror in writer-director Feigelfeld’s film certainly, but it is the creeping, uneasy kind.

Casting in the film is great; Aleksandra Cwen brings a haunting quality to Albrun which is most apt. The cinematography makes the most of the location, and the restricted palette works well in making the colour that is featured stand out. Sound design works well early on in the film, but feels overblown in some of the later scenes.

Hagazussa – A Heathen’s Curse is a striking debut from Feigelfeld. The film is certainly atmospheric, but it lingers too long at times.

Hagazussa – A Heathen’s Curse is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

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