Religion and Superstition in Movies

As you begin to work on Essay #1, here are some suggestions.
To complement analyses of The Witch, some great and easily accessible primary-source texts could be the Malleus Maleficarum (aka “Hammer of the Witches,” widely available in English translation) and the Salem Witch Trials documents (a great cache of texts are here: home.html). I will discuss both in my Week VIII lectures.
Also, Fatima devised these excellent critical/historical questions, which are very useful to think with! They are specifically in regards to The Witch, but several of the questions can, mutatis mutandis, quite easily be applied (later) to the film Silence as well.

  1. How does the movie evoke the mental world of the characters (how they thought about religion, sin, family relations, the woods, the dark)?
  2. How does it show you how much religion and superstition dominated the psyche of people/why was it such a real and urgent concern?
  3. How does it explain why people thought and acted in the ways that they did?
  4. Why is the genre (horror) apt for such a portrayal?
  5. Why was the myth of the witch so powerful and compelling?
  6. How is nature and the New World represented?
  7. What is the importance of the sources that the film is based on (folk tales etc.) – is the movie portraying actual events or how they were believed/narrated to have taken place (think about perspective)?

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