“There’s nothing more dangerous than a woman dancing.”
So proclaims Judge Rostegui in Pablo Agüero’s 2020 film Akelarre (released to US audiences in 2021 as Coven of Sisters). The lead inquisitor behind scores of witch trials, Rostegui (played by Alex Brendemühl) has arrived in the Basque Country in 1609, sent by the king to rid the region of satanic influence. With the assistance of his consejero and a local priest, he imprisons a group of six local young women who had the audacity to gather and dance in the woods while the men of the village are away fishing. Torture is used to elicit confessions, and the young women quickly realize that Rostegui is both sexually attracted to Ana (Amaia Aberasturi) and obsessed with witnessing the witches’s sabbath. Using his desire against him, the young women craft a plan to delay their execution by promising to show him the sabbath.
A modest period drama that plays upon the psycho-sexual underpinnings of Christian fears of witchcraft, the movie could also be read as a horror, one in which the true “monsters” are the patriarchy and the church… which, frankly, feels pretty spot on to me.
Overall impression: ★ ★ ★ ½ of 5
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