WIDE ANGLE

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Out this week, The Craft is being sold as a cross between Brian de Palma's Carrie and Clueless. A dark little teen movie that explores schoolgirl bitchery through witchery, translating adolescent fantasies of empowerment into a love of spells and curses. It's a horror film with the same dark tone as, say, Heathers, but shouldn't be taken too seriously: the lead girl, Sarah, finds her future coven introduced to her as The Bitches of Eastwick.

Witchcraft gives cinema the perfect means to explore the fearful mystique attached to closed groups of women, to wax ambiguous about the repulsive sexiness of the powerful female and play on the deeply rooted misogyny that persists despite the sanitary companies' cheerfully relentless demystification of the lunar cycle. So it's strange that few film-makers have tackled the subject seriously.

The 1960s and 1970s saw a spate of toothless crones in family fare such as Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Bewitched, along with camply hysterical offerings from the Hammer House of Horror. Recent movies, such as The Witches of Eastwick, have followed the same pattern, approaching the subject with a deadpan humour to package the perceived virtues of the anti-mum: bitching, autonomy and sexual appetite.

A new production of The Crucible, aimed squarely at an adult audience and planned for release early next year, looks set to change all that. Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George) directs the new adaptation of Arthur Miller's classic play which transforms his indictment of McCarthyism into a story about a Puritan New England struggling with, you guessed it, adolescent sexuality.

The play was filmed once before in 1957, as The Witches of Salem, with a screenplay by Jean-Paul Sartre, but this is less French art house than Hollywood blockbuster. Winona Ryder stars alongside Daniel Day-Lewis in a top-dollar production that has reproduced exactly the 17th-century architecture and costumes of the period. Perhaps the greater guarantee of integrity, however, comes with the news that Miller himself has scripted the piece. By the pricking of my thumbs, something glossy, high- grossing and Oscar-winning this way comes.

Comments