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The Witches

Nicolas Roeg
UK, USA 1990 / 91’
Track 29 Nicolas Roeg: It's About Time

This cinematic gathering of witches-Roeg's film for children based on the work of Roald Dahl-was produced by the creator of the Muppet Show, Jim Henson, while the American, Swedish, and British cast turns out to be an extraordinarily successful mix, including the brilliant Anjelica Houston (the Grand High Witch), Mai Zetterling (she got her start working with Bergman) and Rowan Atkinson. Harnessing Roeg's dark, erotic imagination to a project for children seems to be a perverse idea, and The Witches had expected problems with distribution in the United States (not to mention Dahl's outrage about the changed ending), but critics were united in praising the result. This wild mix of comedy and horror tells the story of a grandmother and grandson who go to a gathering of witches at a hotel in Cornwall, where they discover a plan to turn all children into mice. In one scene, the sexy Grand High Witch pulls off her wig and mask, revealing a cavernous head, a giant nose and birdlike talons. Filtered through Roeg's imagination, this children's story is turned into a satire on women, whose external beauty hides their evil intentions. Today, when witches are seen as synonymous with a woman's strength and independence, The Witches looks a little like a postcard from the past, without, however, losing any of its charm and made in the director's inimitable style.

Małgorzata Sadowska

Nicolas Roeg

Born in 1928, Nicolas Roeg is one of Britain's most original filmmakers: a director with passion who tears down the order of the classical narrative, a master of editing and an outstanding stylist. Probing with his camera deep into our obsessions, tormenting memories, unhealed collective and individual wounds and sexual fantasies, he broke down the on-screen division between past and present, proving - in a particularly brilliant way - that cinema is a time capsule. While struggling for years with rejection and being misunderstood, Roeg consistently followed the path of an outsider, not only setting his films outside Great Britain (in Australia, the Seychelles, Vienna), but also happily working with artists associated with counter-cultural rebellion (David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Art Garfunkel). Films that came to be appreciated a bit too late, such as PerformanceDon't Look Now, WalkaboutThe Man Who Fell to Earth and Bad Timing, are iconic works: visually stunning, engaging, provocative fairy tales for adults.

Selected filmography

1970 Performance

1971 Walkabout

1973 Nie oglądaj się teraz / Don’t Look Now

1976 Człowiek, który spadł na ziemię / The Man Who Fell to Earth

1980 Zmysłowa obsesja / Bad Timing

1983 Eureka

1985 Z przymrużeniem oka / Insignificance

1988 Tor 29 / Track 29

1990 Wiedźmy / Witches

Cast & Crew

director Nicolas Roeg
screenplay Allan Scott (based on Roald Dahl's novel)
cinematography Harvey Harrison
editing Tony Lawson
music Stanley Myers
cast Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling, Jasen Fisher, Rowan Atkinson
producer Jim Henson, Mark Shivas, Dusty Symonds
production Lorimar Film Entertainment, Jim Henson Company, The Jim Henson Productions
sales Park Circus
language English
colouration colour