The VVitch: A Conversation

 
"The Three Graces" by Claude Mellan
 

GEORGE SROUJI: Well I'm excited to talk about this, ‘cause this is one of my favorite movies. Probably my favorite horror movie flat out.

EMMA COYLE: Ehhh, it's probably in my top five, I don't really have a particular order but—

G: Of horror movies or movies in general?

E: Specifically horror movies, I'm not getting into the big outside world of other movies.

G: Nah, I think it's time to open the conversation

E: Fuck off. (laughter) Um, no. There’s like The VVitch, It Follows, The Babadook, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, and basically anything else by A24.

G: Well, it's interesting that you bring up A24, because something that I was thinking about is how this film feels like, well I don't know enough of the timeline of A24, but it feels like this one kind of set A24’s house style for horror films.

E: Well I think it was one of their earlier, more successful films

G: Right, this made like ten times—I think it was 40 million on a 4 million dollar budget.

E: I wish I could do that. I wish I had a 4 million dollar budget to begin with.

G: I can if someone would fund me! No, it would be a disaster. But, you know, if you watch another one of their more recent horror films, like Hereditary, of which I've seen… a half hour because I had to leave the theater. You notice a lot of similarities, if I’m remembering correctly, with the soundtrack especially. A dissonant, atonal droning kind of sound.

E: Well, being that in our most recent watching, it had the captions on, I just think its really interesting to mention that they noted it was women droning.

G: Yeah, I think that’s something that’s more unique to this movie than to other A24 films, which I like a lot, because I think it fits in so well.

E: I mean how could it not, thats literally like the entire theme, it's all about women and the way that women are perceived, and their roles, and coming of age.

G: Yeah I think that's one of the biggest themes.

E: I think it's the central theme. There are a lot of secondary themes—

G: I don't know. I don't know if I agree because to me this movie is—Well, as a man, I disagree that this movie is about women.

E: Yeah, come on. Let's hear it, buddy.

G: I think that there's a huge gender aspect to it, but, to me at least, this film is about pride.

E: I agree that it's about pride and, specifically, the father’s pride, which I think is very interesting; you’re watching the way that his pride destroys the family—

G: Right.

E: —and destroys every relationship in the family, but specifically the [relationships] between the women. The way he makes them keep secrets from each other and puts his teenage daughter in a position where her mother is attacking her.

G: That’s, you know, that’s fair. I actually saw the mother a little differently, as maybe a bit more representative of women who enjoy their place in the patriarchy.

E: Mm-hmm. I disagree. I disagree.

G: You disagree?

E: I think she is in a position where in this family, she is an appendage to her husband. She has no say. I don’t think she’s enjoying her place, I think she's been gaslit into a position where she has nothing left besides cruelty because she has been so confused. On top of that, she also just lost a bunch of kids.

G: That’s fair. She does, within fifteen minutes of the start of the movie, lose a child for the first time.

E: The youngest one too.

G: The youngest one absolutely.

E: And it’s a boy. Which is like double points.

G: Obviously.

E: Also, I wanted to acknowledge that the only children you see lost in this movie are the boy kids.

G: When you say lost...?

E: Dead. Or you know elsewise. Like the baby. Which we are assuming is very dead. While we don’t technically see him die, we see a lot of snippets that say the baby is dead.

G: Right well we don't see him die, but we see about thirty seconds before and about a minute afterwards.

E: A lil’ squishy. There is this point in the movie where I feel like the parents are like, “Goddamnit. It's the boy kids who are dying instead of this not-very-useful girl daughter that we would be so much happier to sell off, or give off to our neighbors, because she’s just too many mouths when these boy kids are much more useful.”

G: Right. I think when we were watching this we focused on very different aspects of it. I did try to view it though that feminist lens, but I spent a lot of this watch thinking about The VVitch in terms of religion and the religious themes in the movie. For me, the feminist and religious aspects were truly tied together there at the end. I'm not sure how to explain that.

E: I mean, things I noticed that definitely tied the two themes together—

G: Well, I think it is the imagery at the end. We spent the entire film watching these characters exist and move as best they can through this strict, religious, patriarchal society, or at least what they brought with them from England and then subsequently into the woods. And so at the end, I'm wondering, does the vvitchcraft represent a freedom from that? Because there is, in the last shot of the film, this Christ-like image of Thomasin rising up through the air. So I see that and I think to myself, does the vvitchcraft represent some sort of release from a more earthly struggle, a more base struggle?

E: Yes, I think what I was saying before we watched it, about the Satanic Temple, this is what they were talking about. Their whole thing is that satan himself is not the evil bad guy, opposite to God and goodness, it is that he is—

G: He represents free will.

E: Free will, but also very Promethean, in that he's bringing stolen fire and knowledge from the gods—

G: I watched The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I get it.

E: No they just stole a statue from the Satanic Temple.

G: But they do touch on Satan representing free will.

E: Well II feel like in the context of this religious community in The VVitch, free will is evil. Because the structure of their particular religious beliefs and the way they live their lives is in opposition to free will. It's a lot of predetermination and the expectation that you give up those things to God.

G: And that's something we see Thomasin bristle against throughout the film. I of course already had religion on the mind and really wanted to look at the religious themes, but something that I noticed is, as they leave, and only Thomasin looks back. And yet she's the only one to make it out. I guess to kind of draw that over to the story of Lot and his wife, I found that an interesting twist. That the only one who does look back is the only one who isn't, in a sense, turned to a pillar of salt.

E: I'm always obsessed with the idea of turning into pillars of salt. It’s one of my favorite metaphors. So any time you bring that up I get a little excited about it.

G: I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what this film thinks of God. Because we know the devil exists in this universe. We see him, we hear him speak, but if there is a God in the universe of The VVitch, they’re extraordinarily hands off. The only reward they offer is heavenly.

E: You were talking about pride this whole time, right? Pride is literally the worst sin.

G: It's a gateway sin.

E: No. I mean— [laughter] Shut up.

G: No! Its true! It's a gateway sin, right?

E: No, it's literally the worst sin, it is the worst circle of hell if you go to Dante's Inferno. [Ed: it is not.] Pride is the one in which-

G: Is that where Brutus and Judas are? [Ed: They’re in Treachery, which is the worst circle.]

E: It’s frozen down there, because the further you get from God's love, the colder it is.

G: That's clever of Dante. He's going places. Go on.

E: Anyway, pride is the worst sin and from the opening lines of The VVitch, this whole family is completely screwed. They are outside of God's love because William, the father, will not swallow his pride. He has too much pride to save his family, so the entire family is already outside of God's love.

G: I mean, we see the older characters, other than Thomasin, all swallowed up by pride in their own ways. Look at Caleb's expedition into the woods. We see the two main male characters infected with this pride. Katherine as well, but to a lesser extent, because she takes as much pride as she can in the role that she's been reduced to by this society, which is explicitly that of a mother.

E: And explicitly a mother of boys.

G: Exactly.

E: And boys who have not died until this moment, so think about how traumatizing that is. To have been so successful at her only job in this world, the only job she’s been allowed to have, which is to raise good Christian children. And now her husband takes them all out to the woods and it’s implicitly her fault that the kids are dying.

G: Look at her hallucination—well, not a hallucination, because it's what the devil is showing her—

E: Theoretically. Her dream.

G: I was wondering about that, because we've both watched this film a bunch of times, but I never noticed before how Caleb, in that vision, explicitly says he brought a book and would like to show it to her. So to me, that there is the devil. Because at the end we see him tell Thomasin exactly what she wants to hear. If we look at the dream as a reflection of Katherine’s desires, they’re to have her sons back, which makes sense. But also, for her, the epitome of that, to the point where she ignores Caleb's book, is to be able to breastfeed Sam. That's the epitome of her desire in this movie because thats what shes been reduced to.

E: Wait, so I have some notes on that… I don't know where, but I think there’s something about the way in which that raven-crow creature—was it a raven or a crow?

G: I would say raven.

E: I don't know because—

G: Wikipedia says it’s a raven.

E: In Caleb's little death chant he says, “a cat, a crow, a raven, a big black dog, a wolf.”

G: We can eliminate three of those.

E: It could be one!

G: It was a big black dog, let’s agree.

E: I was thinking wolf but, you know, a beaked one.

G: Same thing.

E: Anyway, it’s like that bird is plucking away at her motherhood. Also, the blood imagery throughout the whole film is always in small measures.

G: I would disagree with that actually. At times it is in small measures but I would disagree because—more importantly, it’s so constantly connected to the women of this film and womanhood.

E: Can blood really be anything besides womanly?

G: Right, exactly, but I started keeping track because I was thinking about the colors of this film. It's almost exclusively green, brown, grey, and then these moments of red. And you've got the chicken egg with the fetus inside… and again we've got motherhood.

E: Failed motherhood.

G: That's incredible. And that's why I say not in small doses, like the vvitch smearing herself in the remains of Sam—

E: But even so it's not like big squirting sprays of blood, dead bodies—

G: Right. We don't get that until the final fight between Thomasin and Katherine.

E: Even the vvitch smearing herself in blood. It’s this thin, translucent blood. It's not as though she's like, “Here's a big bowl and let's pour it on me.” It’s like, “I dipped my hand in this and I’m putting some lotion on.”

G: So I think that there's also, tying all this together, the moment where we finally do get a torrent of blood is from Katherine, spilling onto her daughter’s face.

E: Couple of thoughts on that, as far as history and fairy tales go: we can get our whole Elizabeth Báthory thing in here between the vvitch and the mother. She was supposedly the first woman serial killer, she's super famous. She’d kill young maidens and bathe in their blood to preserve her youth. The relation between that and The VVitch is the implication that the only desirable aspect for women in this world is youth. Once you’re, old you’re irrelevant. Katherine, especially, is becoming even more irrelevant as her children are lost since she already lost her youth, and her role is being taken over by this young daughter, who’s coming of age and beautiful. To be bathed in that kind of blood, to have that kind of blood between the two of them, makes me think of earlier in the film, where the vvitch literally bathes in a child's blood to become youthful and gorgeous. There is a tie between these two moments, watching the way in which blood is used not only for women, but for youth and the roles and bounds in which those exist.

G: That's interesting because I was really viewing that image being a much more straightforward metaphor. The passing down from mother to daughter. I hadn't really considered that angle to it. Something I want to bring up that I started wondering about about twenty minutes into the film, and I'm still thinking about, is the question of whether this is a morality play. I think it is.

E: I think it masquerades as a morality play.

G: Interesting.

E: I dont think it's actually one though. I think it masquerades as one because that’s the way in which this story would have been told then. If this kind of story would have been told at that time it would have been as a morality play of how to not be bad, how to stay on the path of God, how to not become a vvitch and, you know, not eat babies.

G: Well, I think what settled me on the side of it being a morality play was how personified their sins seem. Really it's all contained within the devil and the vvitch.

E: Sounds like a great name for a band. Probably bluegrass.

G: The Devil And The VVitch? Absolutely bluegrass. So from my perspective, the source of the family’s downfall dwells among them for the entire movie. As we were discussing before, they’re doomed from the start, in the literal sense as well, thanks to Black Phillip. Something that we discussed is that it’s the devil who sows pride within the family, but perhaps it's there from the beginning and he just serves as a personification of it. Both the devil and the vvitch, serve as a personification of William’s pride which we see him literally buried in by the end.

E: Do you mean with the wood pile there at the end?

G: Yeah. Caleb's lust, not to get too seven deadly sins with it, but Katherine’s wrath, Jonas and Mercy’s disobedience—

E: That's not really a sin though.

G: It's one of them. You should honor thy mother and thy father.

E: Yes. But disobedience is not quite the same.

G: Oh, no, fair. But that's not what I mean. They're—

E: If your going to name sins, say the real sin, man.

G: Ok, yes, yes, Sister Emma. But so, is it that their holiness, their piety I should say, could never save them, because they could never be perfectly holy? Are they human or do you just think that they are simply sinners? That we are looking at a group of sinners.

E: I would argue that its not really either of those.

G: Right.

E: My argument on this is that, most religions don't even care about sinning so long as you repent. And even throughout this movie you’re listening to Caleb go through the woods saying he’s going to repent. Everyone going through it is always says they are going to be better next time, but, the thing is, they're never better the next time. They don't actually change.

G: Right.

E: If they decided to change then they could have been saved. If they acknowledged their actual sins—William, throughout the movie, doesn't actually acknowledge that it’s his pride.

G: Until the very end when it's too late.

E: Even then when you see him doing that last scene there at the end—

G: When he's eating dirt.

E: Yeah, it's not actually about his pride at that point. It's about getting rid of blame, self-blame. He’s now saying “God, why did you do this, I'm so sorry,” but he's still putting this on God doing this to them. He's trying to alleviate his sins, his blame, his regret by saying it's God's fault.

G: So maybe now what I'm thinking is that it’s not so much they weren’t pious enough, it’s maybe that their piety could never save them. Not because they’re flawed as humans or because humans are necessarily flawed, but because their piety itself is flawed. Inherently so, because of how they’re strictly religious within a strict patriarchy and perpetuating flaws within their religion. So that in that case, I guess it goes back to what we were saying before, about the vvitchcraft. Her joining the VVitches’ Sabbath is sort of representative of of her finally acquiring that freedom.

E: Yes. Could you imagine being in that situation and just having five minutes of breathing room.

G: Exactly!

E: She looked like she was about to cry and laugh at the same time and that's exactly how everyone who was in that situation would feel.

G: It was ecstasy.

E: I want to go back to what you were saying about some of the religious stuff but I want to talk about Caleb a little bit here.

G: Caleb is a character that makes me sad.

E: Yeah. Starting from the beginning there's this kid, he's out in the woods, he kinda has the hots for his sister. Problematic from the beginning, right? But as we continue on, I know you were saying a second ago that his lust was a problem for him, but I think there's a certain amount of it is instead focusing on the ruination of boy children. The ways in which—

G: Yes!

E: —boy children are ruined and become spoiled. And I don't mean spoiled as in being given too much stuff. I mean spoiled as in rotting produce. They’re targeted for contamination in the way that the girls, as they grow up, are blamed of that contamination.

G: Exactly.

E: We get to this point with the vvitch thing that I think we need to spend a significant time discussing because there's a lot of shit there. And how, in that moment, he is ruined by a woman, a sexualized and sexual woman, which leads to his death. A kiss. And then we get into this representation of original sin, where he’s literally vomiting up an apple after being vvitched. Is there anything more indicative of original sin than a young, naked boy showing up and vomiting up an apple? Can we have a more clear image rolling across the hardwood floor?

G: Right. And that's kind of what I was saying, well, obviously not all of that, but the spoiling of boys. That's what I was thinking of when I said that Caleb just makes me sad, as a character. Because you see the stuff that he does, like when he goes into the woods with Thomasin, or tries to go into the woods by himself. That's all learned. You said something in there that really struck me and I lost the thought.

E: Um…

G: The blame!

E: Right. The way boys are targeted to be contaminated, and the girls are blamed for that contamination.

G: That stuck out to me because, while I was taking notes on The VVitch, I noted how Thomasin is blamed for everything. Every single little thing that happens. Katherine has no idea what happened to her father's silver cup, and immediately she demands to know what Thomasin did with it.

E: Well that's kind of an indication of the way that patriarchy works in this family. It's so much easier to pin it on the girl than it would be anyone else in that room. How could Thomasin not be guilty? She's becoming a woman.

G: Exactly. She just became a woman as her mother makes clear.

E: She just inherited all the guilt of the world.

G: She's inherited the original sin.

E: This is the moment in which all sins become her sins. But I do want to get back to Caleb, because I still think him and the vvitch thing is very interesting. How about the fact that the assault, the rape of Caleb, is just kind of hinted at here? We see him get kissed by a vvitch and then he shows up naked at the house—

G: Delirious.

E: —throwing up apples. He's talking wildly about her doing this to him, you know, and they think it's Thomasin, because they are all wrapped up in this idea of Thomasin vvitching him, but it’s really showing us a clear assault, whether it’s by a vvitch or anything else. He has been sexually assaulted and the only way that they can contextualize it is by him being vvitched.

G: That's interesting because I hadn't thought as much as you have about what happens to Caleb in those terms. You keep mentioning the apple and something that sticks out to me is the idea of the vvitch being a woman corrupting a man, a young man, a boy. But at the same time, she does it at whose bidding but another man's.

E: Theoretically.

G: Theoretically.

E: We’re assuming it’s the devil.

G: I assume the devil.

E: We’re assuming it's the devil telling his vvitch ladies what to do.

G: I assume that the vvitch works at the behest of the devil in this film. And it's interesting to me, because women are blamed for the original fall of man, but it really is the devil who does it. Even in the story it's the devil's fault.

E: Like, “Heyyy, come get it!”

G: Exactly.

E: He's like, “You can trust me,” and she’s told to be trusting.

G: What untrustworthy person, or creature, has she met before in the Garden of Eden?

E: How sad would it be to go through life distrusting people all the time.

G: Especially when you got only one or two actual people and one of them made you.

E: But thinking of the original sin and also here, how sad and how terrifying it would be to go through life without some level of trust. At the same time, we have this expectation that women are intensely trusting, but if they trust and it backfires it's their fault. Why would you do that? Why would you trust them? Which is how you connect this with the Adam and Eve stuff, the devil stuff, they expect women to completely trust God, to not ask questions, except for the point in which she's like, “Trusting seems to work well, I like the idea of trusting people, I'm going to trust this snake,” and then they’re like, “Why the fuck would you trust anything the snake says?”

G: Trust is a big theme in The VVitch. Something I wrote down is how their absolute faith in God undermines any trust they could have in each other as a family unit.

E: Yeah I think I made note of that too. “God before family connections.”

G: Exactly! There’s this unwavering faith that renders—because they are so certain that there must be a God and he must be kind and he must be… what's the word? He must reward them for their faith. Anything that goes wrong must be the fault of their family members, must be the fault of Thomasin especially.

E: Sorry, I'm still stuck on the Caleb thing, honestly.

G: Sure, let's go back to Caleb.

E: So we talked about the whole apple thing and original sin. But it's also what he lied about. He lied about going into the woods with the apples. He vomits up his lie. So that’s point two for the apple.

G: That's interesting because it's a reverse Adam and Eve sort of thing, almost. Just as a quick side note: instead of lying and saying you didn't see the apples and didn't touch the apples, he's lying about how he found some. Please go on.

E: Also—

G: And he does bite an apple in reverse in a sense.

E: That's terrible. [Laughter.] Also, I feel like there is something Snow-White-like about this little moment. He's the damsel now, he was cursed by this envious vvitch. And did you notice that he’s asleep, cursed with a sleeping curse? But obviously, like any older fairy tale, it's not going to end with a happy ending. None of those really do. They always end with a death.

G: It's not a fairytale. It's a New England Folktale.

E: So I have this note written down about Caleb ,that his dying monologue references this entire history, in the sense of poets like John Donne and religious works, of very homoerotic poetry and literature about the relationship one has with God. Which I find so interesting.

G: Right.

E: In the moments in which he is trying to be like, “Begone with ye, evil lady-woman-spirit who has assaulted me and put this evil sin upon me! I call to God to come into me, to take me, to penetrate me.”

G: “To take me in his lap.”

E: Yes. And that's really interesting to me in that he’s a very young kid, right? It makes me uncomfortable to consider him in a sexualized way. He’s what, like twelve?

G: Yeah.

E: He's been objectified tremendously. And there is something you were saying earlier about how his lust is his downfall and I think the way you said that, considering the fact that he’s a twelve-year-old, led me to think about his lack of blame and the idea that youthful interest or lust is used as a reason for why he should die.

G: Which isn't at all what I'm saying. More that I'm thinking of the religious truth of this universe, in a very old testament sort of way, where something like being assaulted would be punished as lust.

E: Yes. I'm not saying that you’re saying this kid should die because of lust. I’m saying that it made me think about the way in which it seems justified within the confines of this universe, within the confines of this fairy tale, this folktale, whatever it is.

G: It's a Folktale. It's a New England Folktale.

E: Thank you for continuing to remind me.

G: I mean, there couldn't be a more perfect subtitle for this movie, because it really does bring it to mind. Few things scream “New England Folktale!” more to me than, like, a danger lurking in the woods. I'm from New Jersey so I know all about the Jersey Devil which is genuinely—[Laughter.] You can laugh at it! I saw you laugh at it. Don't edit that out! Our hockey team’s named after it. Go Devils. But as someone who’s also camped in the Pine Barrens, it’s fucking terrifying. So scary. Truely. The woods are scary at night but the Pine Barrens… there's something about them that feels… not right.

E: Did you meet the devil out there and did you sign his book? It’s a real question.

G: No, I think I snored too loudly.

E: The devil was like, “Not this one over here. He sounds annoying.” But slightly back on topic-ish, did you have anything you wanted to say about the child sexualization or should we just move on?

G: No I think you kind of nailed it.

E: I feel like I have the observation but I don't necessarily have answers. There is something about heteronormative, sinful sexual experiences and homoerotic, religious sexual experiences and I don't quite know where that balance is in this film for Caleb.

G: Yeah.

E: Thomasin is obviously the main character, but in some ways, after Caleb died, there is this moment where I feel like this horror story is almost more about the parents, despite the fact that they are decentralized. Mostly because we are seeing this backgrounded implosion of their lives. There is a constant and continual loss of their children, which leads to the destruction of their marriage. Additionally, they start keeping secrets, they stop relying on each other, and there is this anger towards each other. Which is so often the case with families that lose children.

G: I don't know if it's necessarily because of Sam's death so much as it’s unlocked by it. It's kind of loosed by it. It’s like, these problems don't appear out of nowhere. I read it as William having traded away the silver cup before Sam even goes missing. These are all things that are lurking, bubbling under the surface, and Sam's death is a catalyst that really brings these things forward.

E: But I think they could have survived as a marriage or as a couple. They could have survived a lot those things because at one point—

G: No! Absolutely! [Ed: ?]

E: —at one point when William is out in the woods with Caleb, and he says, “Don’t tell your mom about these traps, because I traded her cup, and I don't want to tell her about it because it's going to be really upsetting because we just lost Sam.” By the way, terrible thing. Don’t ask your children to lie for you. Bad, bad parenting. I think, having lost Sam, they are now keeping secrets from each other, keeping emotions from each other.

G: Right.

E: Dad’s out there chopping wood all goddamn day and night. Mom is losing her mind. He wants to just move on with life and get ready for winter. And she clearly can’t move on with life, having just lost her kid.

G: Right. Because what else can she do, because she's nothing but a mother. You see that? That was full circle. [Applause] Leave that in. It was very impressive.

E: I'll make note of that. But yeah, I think the movie also addresses the ways in which the grief of losing your children completely changes your world. It affects everyone differently and they carry it in different ways. I think it was one of the first things I noted, that there is a complete lack of privacy, but there is an expectation of silences and secrets.

G: It's an extremely silent film. I noticed it at one point near the end, that we hadn't heard any of the score for it in a while.

E: The scene with Thomasin taking off her overdress?

G: It was earlier than that I noticed it. Which, as much as I love the score—I am a sucker for those dissonant—

E: Those creepy lady sounds?

G: Not even just the creepy lady sounds, but I know they used a waterphone and stuff like that when they were recording this, and I'm a sucker for that, but the silence was so important to it.

E: So there is the use of those silences in the score, which emphasizes those of the relationships between the characters. William isn’t telling anyone what's going on. Instead, he chops wood. But there are silences in the actual visuals, in the way that material is withheld. In the way that the vvitch’s face is withheld. Even most of her body. We see her back, the curvature of her spine.

G: We only see the old vvitch's face for a moment.

E: And it's not even the whole thing. It's just half of it. Shadowed.

G: It’s horrifying.

E: Going back to William chopping wood, and that last swing, that last thunk, we never hear it.

G: There are so many strategic cuts to black. Whether it's right after or right before the vvitch kills Sam, within that scene alone there are so many masterfully placed cuts to black. But even at the end when you see—

E: The book?

G: No, when you see Thomasin sit down in the house after having killed her mother. It just cuts to black for a couple of seconds before it goes back to her wandering back out to Black Thomas at night.

E: So I want to talk about the shot of that room, but I also want to say that another masterful cut is when the Devil is chilling there with her, and he says, “I'll guide your hand,” and the next thing you see is Thomasin walking into the woods.

G: I was thinking about that also!

E: That is—

G: Incredible!

E: So good!

G: [Chef kissing his fingers motion] Muah!

E: You don't need to see her signing the book!

G: It's even better that you don't.

E: I feel if you saw it it would be disappointing.

E: But the visuals in the room there at the end, those are super interesting to me. I would describe it as a very empty still life. The image is balanced. She is in one corner on one side, and it’s balanced by the wooden table on the other. That table represents a lot of things in this moment. She is stripping off her clothes, which is a complete no-no in puritan life. Girl taking her clothes off? Bad things. But there is that table—the table that earlier in the movie, William sits at the head of, leading prayers, looking like Jesus. Holding communion. The table represents the idea of religion, sharing food, family. So there is the table on one side of the screen, and her stripping on the other side while drenched in her mother's blood, and it’s silent. In some ways this scene is the tipping point of the movie.

G: Lets get some last thoughts in?

E: Moment where they are burying Caleb? I figured out the name of that painting is: The Angelus. To me, the shot of them burying Caleb looks like this painting. I first thought of Dali’s version, but no, it’s Millet’s Angelus. It is an oil painting by this french painter completed between 1857 and 1859, with two peasants in a field bowing over a basket of ‘potatoes’ but it is believed, I think they x-rayed it, that originally the potatoes were an infant's casket.

G: Oh, it shows a painted-over geometric shape strikingly similar to a coffin by the basket. [Ed: this was read off of Wikipedia. He’s clueless about paintings.]

E: An itty-bitty baby coffin. I think there's a lot of points throughout this movie where they drew on visual material from works of art.

G: [Robert Eggers] spent four years researching it, and like a year producing it.

E: I very much believe that he could have spent the time going scene-by-scene, putting in these references.

G: Well, a great deal of the dialogue is taken from transcripts from that time.

E: From diaries.

G: From diaries, and court transcripts and such.

E: I wrote down a few that I liked. “Let me find favor in your eyes,” not too long before we have the last moment of love and affection between Katherine and Thomasin. A kiss on the forehead.

G: A line that stuck out to me, and it never stuck out to me so much as in this viewing, when William tells Caleb, “Look you, I love thee marvelous well.” That's beautiful.

E: It has a rhythm to it.

G: Yeah.

E: Oh, and there was this moment at the end where William and Thomasin are out there, and he wants her to tell him the truth, because he says he knows she did it. That lack of trust is gaslighting and might be the most horrifying moment in this movie for me.

G: When?

E: Caleb just died and she is crying by the tree.

G: Oh, yeah, okay.

E: For me, that moment is the scariest moment of the movie. When William goes, “Look, kid, I just don't believe you.” That moment is terrifying, and I think that fear is common for a lot of people, but especially for women. Not being believed and not being able to get help, especially coming from a parent, someone who is supposed to believe you.

G: Yeah, it's what we were saying before. The absolute faith in God sowing mistrust between those who you truly know.

E: Yeah.

G: Well I think we can both agree, the film is about a goat. I have one last thought before we close this up: my biggest regret about this conversation is not starting it off by asking you if “thou wouldst like to chat deliciously.”

E: It's not too late. We can always edit it into the begining.

G: Please do actually. I was hoping you would.

E: To be clear I'm going to have it start at the beginning but then I'm going to get to this point of the conversation and then it will suddenly make sense why it's there.

G: No. Cut it off. Cut it off. I desperately just want you to leave that at the end. Us agreeing. I would love it if, not the chef’s kiss ones but the other ones, you left in as me specifically asking you to edit things in.

E: We’re still rolling, buddy.

G: Are we really?

E: We’re still rolling.

G: I don't want to.

E: You don't want to keep rolling?

G: No.

E: Alright. Last chance to get if off your chest. Any last thoughts, opinions, commentary?

G: I would like to go eat deliciously.


This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. We did our best.