Eric’s Review: Agatha (2022 Another Hole in the Head Film Festival)

ATMOSfx! Woo!

★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★

Directed by Kelly Bigelow Becerra and Roland Becerra

Agatha resides at the intersection of an experimental art piece and a horror movie. Knowing that, you know how to proceed with this film. Agatha is visually stunning but ultimately difficult to process at times. It is mesmerizing and dreamy and entirely devoid of dialogue. There are maybe ten spoken lines in the entire film, and all the exposition in the story is delivered visually with layers of allegory painted on.

The movie appears to have been run through a digital Rotoscope effect. A live-action film that has been run through a heavy digital filter to deliver a gauzy oil painting comes-to-life atmosphere. The film is loaded with visual detailing, alternating between a Victorian curio of collected history and a completely blighted urban apocalypse as the primary settings for the film.

The story follows a man (Nathan Lewis) who has just gotten news of a terminal disease (probably cancer) and his obsession with his strange young neighbor, Agatha (Emily Joyce-Dial) whom he believes can cure him with witchcraft. He has made a terrible mistake, however, in one of his fits of depression, and it will complicate his interactions with Agatha, and seal his doom.

Fundamentally, that is the plot. There are a multitude of layers in here, of course, and the story alludes to the history of generations of witches, and their relationship to a massive hanging tree that exists in the property between the man and the witch. There are some startling discoveries involving Agatha’s daughter and her house cat that will stay with you as well. But you have to really pay attention. A second viewing was required for me to fully put this puzzle together.

Agatha asks a lot of the audience. Themes of sickness, grief, revenge, forgiveness, shame, decay, and ritual all are on display here. The storyline is not linear either, with looping scenes and flashbacks that will test your attention. I would get lost from time to time, and if you happen to watch this with someone who will ask questions during a movie, you should probably consider watching this alone, because you will be having to describe a dream in midstream, and it will be difficult to explain.

The production summary states that “Agatha is designed to evoke an unsettling mood and to leave many unanswered questions about the events taking place inside the film, resulting in a suspenseful earth-shattering conclusion.” To that, I would say, mission accomplished. The ending does do a nice job of tying together the myriad of meandering plot threads and gives an appropriately horrific concluding scene.

Without a doubt, this will be a challenge for many moviegoers. At a certain point, you almost have to lose yourself in the visuals. If you are the type of person who can sit in front of a painting in a gallery, muse about the meanings, and can elicit suggested motifs out of them, you will certainly appreciate Agatha.

If not… may I suggest Night of the Bastard, also playing at Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, which is probably the exact opposite of this film. It gives you an appreciation for what this festival can deliver. Both films are micro-budget independent films with a lot of heart, but you can get two very different styles of film. You don’t get much more art-house that this production. Agatha is available to stream on the AHITH FF festival streaming site until the festival concludes this weekend. The film is not rated, but it would probably earn an R rating. Even though this is animated fare, it almost certainly is going to go over the heads of most young viewers. Much of it went over this middle-aged viewer’s head, until the second watch-through.

Review by Eric Li
Categories: Festivals, ReviewsTags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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