Since I’m trying to report on every film I watched as the month goes by, I’ll have to keep it brief.
4. The Witch (directed by Robert Eggers, 2016)
End of the year also means catching up with films I’ve missed from the previous months. There are quite a few that never played in Hong Kong. The Witch is one of them. Hailed as the breakout horror of the year (like last year’s It Follows), this “New England folklore” is touted as a piece of astute filmmaking that exceeds the expectations of its genre. And speaking as a person with no particular interest in horror films, I am pleasantly amused by this 17th century tale of a Puritan family fending for their lives and sanity in face of a mysterious evil force. The film sets its creepy tone right from the beginning with a witch making bloody body lotion out of a goddamn baby (though the goriest details are omitted from the screen). The casting is on point, featuring The Office’s Finchy (Ralph Ineson) as the father who tries to keep it together and Game of Thrones’ Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie) as the mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the oldest daughter, is the real revelation here. Not only does she possess the face of waning naiveté, the young actress also embodies the repressed rage of a woman coming of age.
5. Into the Inferno (directed by Werner Herzog, 2016)
Werner Herzog is one of a few filmmakers to release two films this year. His internet-themed documentary Lo & Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is still unavailable to me, so I watched the Netflix-exclusive Into the Inferno instead. With volcanoes as this documentary’s central focus, Herzog visited various sites of interest around the world with his scientist friend, exploring the different technologies and cults related to volcanoes. Even though Herzog’s freewheeling discourse on human nature has always been part of his documentaries’ charm, Into the Inferno’s sprawling exposition has a hard time binding all the various parts—ranging from the archeologists in Ethiopia to the myth of the Kim Il-sung dynasty in North Korea—to make one unified feature.