Etymology time! “Hagazussa” (“hedge sitter”), an Old High German word that gave us witchy terms like “hag” and “hex,” refers to the old women who would sit near the hedges that separated cultivated land from wild forests, gathering herbs and such while the menfolk did agricultural labor. The movie called Hagazussa is about a medieval Alp-dwelling goatherd named Albrun (Aleksandra Cwen), whose name comes from roots meaning “elf, supernatural being” and “secret, magic.” Albrun has a baby despite there being no evidence that she’s ever had a man in her life (no evidence besides the baby, I mean), and she keeps to herself in a shack in the mountains, where she regularly encounters (causes?) unnatural phenomenon. You can see why the bratty, superstitious children in the village think she’s a witch. Also, maybe she is one? Subtitled A Heathen’s Curse, this gorgeously photographed, almost dialogue-free debut feature from German writer-director Lukas Feigelfeld tells Albrun’s story elliptically, ambiguously, letting the tension and sinister omens build almost unbearably. I wasn’t totally satisfied by the eventual release — it’s possible I missed some of the significance of the film’s folkloric elements and other imagery — but even so, it’s a singular tone poem that evokes powerful unease.
Screened at Fantastic Fest 2017.