Less-than-bewitching film misses point

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP | Contributor
Sunday, January 16, 2011

“Season of the Witch” is one of those movies that had such potential, but drowns under the weight of its own petering out of imagination. What went wrong?

A frail, pretty young woman (Claire Foy) is accused of being a powerful witch who incurred a deadly plague. Two errant knight-crusaders (Nicholas Cage and the always spot-on Ron Perlman) are charged with bringing her safely to a monastery where she will have a fair trial. So far so good. The best scenes are the subtle, creepy interactions with “the witch,” a harmless looking creature, but as soon as anyone engages her in conversation, she finds his weakness and use it against him.

The church is made to look like the powerful worldly entity it was back in the day, and there’s a fair amount of anti-religious barbs and jokes at the expense of religion (which, of course, would have been very appropriate to the times, and often well deserved). But Hollywood also recognizes the spiritual power wielded by the church.

However, the only hope to stop the darkness is “The Book of Solomon,” painstakingly copied by hand by monks. This is not the actual book of the Bible, the Wisdom of Solomon. We are in quasi-fictional Dan Brown territory, because this Book of Solomon, although written and illuminated by monks, is “the book used by all the holy men through the ages” to overcome evil. This isn’t the Catholic brand, it’s generic.

Although in “Witch” much is made of chivalry and vows to God, the true nature of evil is never dealt with. The evil of sin that lives in our hearts. There are fleeting references to sin and penance, but with a sense of disbelief.

In the new book “Light of the World,” Pope Benedict says: “We have to recover the understanding that it is really necessary to come to terms with evil. We cannot simply shove it aside or forget it. It has to be worked through and transformed from within.”

It’s so much easier to draw a sword and decapitate demons than it is to wrestle the demons within. Interior battles are hard, lonely, unseen, unapplauded and unvalued in our completely external, Twitterized, publish-my-life world. But as Thomas More said in “A Man for All Seasons,” God and your little circle around you will notice; “not a bad audience, that.”

Want to really man-up? Take up your cross of a life of discipleship, spiritual discipline and self-sacrifice. Only love, truth, beauty and goodness will win the day.