My take on *SEASON OF THE WITCH
Nicolas Cage is one of my favourite actors. Even when he features in faltu
films like Bangkok Dangerous. Having starred in Dominic Sena's Gone in 60 Seconds,
he reteams with the director in a supernatural tale which has been released in
India in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.
Set in medieval Europe, SEASON OF THE WITCH stars Cage as the Crusader knight
Behman with Ron Perlman, as the knight Felson for a comrade in arms in the fight against
"infidels" ( an epithet usually employed by Muslim extremists on the "other")
It's a long and messy war ( waged with a view to regaining the Holy Land) and it is only after wanton (to my mind) and "righteous" killing sanctioned by
numerous belief systems, (only read the Old Testament, Koran and Mahabharat to name just three texts) that Behman ealises, in an epiphanic moment on the battlefield, much like our very own (Indian) Emperor Ashoka, that innocents are being slaughtered.
Behman confronts the authorities,ecclesiastical and martial, refusing to obey the Church, (but not the one true God).
Unsurprisingly, both knights are imprisoned as deserters.
It is a time when the Black Pestilence devastated Europe; the Old Testament would attribute this as divine retribution or chastisement from God,
but the clergy in "Season of the witch" attribute the loathsome disease to the devilry of witches and strike a deal with
the two knights to deliver an young girl accused to witchcraft and worse (Claire Foy) to
a distant monastery for trial and a ritual involving a sacred text ( a fictional Book of Solomon).
The film adopts a balanced approach inasmuch as it castigates the Church for
hanging women on false accusations of witchcraft, and vindicates those believe that diabolical powers are at work.
But then, the script plays out predictably. When Felson tells Behman, he longs to drink wine with him in the village of
his boyhood, you know that will not come to pass. When Foy emotes with woebegone and/or knowing looks from within her iron cage,
you know there's more to her than meets the eye. And when the good priest (Stephen Campbell Moore) cries in anguishm, " God will not abandon us" you think of the Jews and Hiroshima and Rwanda and little orphans everywhere.
But you also think of a God who suffers WITH humanity. When the priest says,"prayer is
our only salvation" and recites the Lord's Prayer in the climactic battle; you
wonder if the film is going to prove him wrong. Mercifully, it doesn't.
The film would have struck a proper balance had it included divine intervention
at some point. Alas, Hollywood finds it more convenient ( and more exciting?) to depict only
the forces of evil.
"Season" is bloody but not spectacular. Look out for a couple of scary sequences and generally good performances though from the cast, especially the knights errant and Christopher Lee in a cameo as a dying prelate.