Monday, 12 September 2016

Witching and Bitching (5 Stars)

"The Devil does not have a big cock. The Devil has a pussy".

This is a dark comedy written and directed by Alex de la Iglesia. The original Spanish title is "The Witches of Zugarramurdi". That title means nothing to me as an Englishman, but Zugarramurdi is a well known town in Spain. It lies on the border to France, and it was the scene of witch trials in the early 17th Century. In Spain it's claimed that witchcraft originated in Zugarramurdi, but this is a folk tale that would be disputed by people in other countries. Today Zugarramurdi has a population of less than 250. On June 21st every year the town hosts an annual witchcraft festival.

The film begins in Madrid. An armed gang, disguised as street entertainers, robs a jewellery shop, stealing a large number of gold wedding rings that have been pawned after marriages broke down. The gang's leader is José, a man dressed as Jesus, carrying a hollow cross through the city to hide his shotgun. José's 11-year-old son Sergio assists his father in the tobbery. After a shoot-out with the police only José, Sergio  and Antonio (a soldier in green face paint) escape. They force a taxi driver to take them to France, but the driver is sympathetic to their cause and asks to join their gang.

The taxi stops in Zugarramurdi after hitting a woman in the road. The woman mysteriously disappears when they try to help her. Sergio says that he saw her flying away, but the adults tell him he imagined it. The group take refuge in a large villa. They discover that the town is inhabited only by women, with the exception of two men, father and son, presumably kept alive for procreation purposes. The father is dim-witted and lives as a slave to his wife, the town's head witch, while his son is kept chained in a room beneath a toilet, and he has to survive by eating the faeces that drop through the ceiling.

The town's women are all witches. They aren't just witches, they're cannibals. They don't eat other women -- that would be barbaric! -- they only eat men. They easily overpower the gang, and they also capture the police who have been pursuing them. José's ex-wife also arrives, attempting to rescue her son, but she's persuaded to team up with the witches. After all, girls have to stick together.

This is a wonderful film about the battle of the sexes. The witches worship the Devil because the Devil is a woman, one of their own. They plan a new world order in which men will suffer. The lucky few men will be allowed to live as slaves, whereas the vast majority will be bred as food. It's emphasised from the beginning that our society based on women's equality is a failure. Marriages break down because man and woman can't live together, as we see from the hundreds of unwanted wedding rings.

"The Witches of Zugarramurdi" (a much better title than the silly English translation) is at the same time funny and unsettling. It's about the destruction of the male gender. Any suggestion of sado-masochistic fetishism is kept to a minimum. Male destruction is presented as a harsh, unglamorous reality. If any man is foolish enough to be turned on by the prospect the witches will laugh in his face while they devour him.

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