I know that it’s some kind of an unfair comparison, but so it happens that I have seen ‘s The Noonday Witch (the original name is Polednice - Midday) at the Czech film festival, and then ‘s Julieta in an interval of less than 24 hours. What do the two films – one the debut long feature of a young Czech director, the other the latest production of one of the best-known contemporary directors – in common? Well, there is actually a central theme to both – mother-daughter relationships as their are hit by the tragedy of the disappearing of the father but also mostly by the lack or incapacity of communication of the two principal characters. While there cannot be any doubt about which film is better (I liked immensely Almodovar’s film, one of the best I have seen in recent years) there are enough interesting elements also in The Noonday Witch which make it worth a look.

 

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4917700/

sursa imaginii http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4917700/

 

The story is one of falling into madness. A mother and her daughter return to the village were Thomas, the disappeared father and husband has grown up and lived. It’s a drought period and nature is threatening (similar background with the one in Schmitke, another Czech production that I have seen a few days ago, but in a different manner and palette), the small rural community have to face not only nature but also the presumed presence of magical forces around. This meddling of threatening nature and magic seems to be a recurring theme in the Czech cinema, as is the incapacity of the community to face threats through rational means, and overall their failure to communicate and get together. Lack of communication and the rebellion of the daughter against the mother who tried to protect her by hiding the truth is the source of the crisis and of the sliding into insanity of the mother.

 

(video source kviff)

 

Until now we have quite a parallel track with the story in Julieta. From here on it’s an execution problem, and the path that was chosen without too much effect is trying to build a magic thriller story. Maybe the problem is with the director having seen too many horror movies of the kind inspired by ‘s novels and short stories. He tries here (and on us viewers) all kind of old tricks and relies less on the assets at hand – the team of actors and especially the kids and the wonderful . Instead trusting her and her colleagues the director recycled all kind of ‘classical’ horror editing (flash images doubled by strong sound impact) and makeup (blind eyes) effects. The result is a very average horror movie, as not too much happens for the second half of the film. With some more daring and less cinematographic quotes this could have been a much better film.