Monday, June 23, 2014


Directed by: Jessica Oreck
Synopsis: A documentary exploring the fairy tales and their place in culture as it pertains to Eastern Europe. 

Fairy tales have always been a way to deal with the unknown and to teach lessons to kids back in the olden days. The Grimm brothers tales were one of the most famous, and they always featured some type of fantastical creature or evil that the young protagonists have to overcome to go back home. Set against the backdrop of turn of the 20th century Eastern Europe (the name of the country is never revealed) and through various animated sequences narrate the tale of the Witch Baba Yaga.  This documentary is short, beautiful, and compelling.

THE VANQUISHING...'s main thesis seems to be that of the symbiosis between fear and the rise of culture. Fairy tales in this movie are seen as ways of trying to reconcile our fear of the unknown and make it more palpable for us to deal with as humans. It then goes on to explore the fact that modern life and technology have done a lot to disparage a lot of these fears and thus our need for fairy tales.

The fairy tale being narrated here deals with a pair of children who are driven away from their home by soldiers during the war. Once they escape, they find themselves near a terrifying house with huge chicken legs that carry it. Seeking shelter, they go inside and run into the Witch Baba Yaga who then threatens them to run various errands for her under the threat of eating them. With each of these tasks is meant to teach the children something, and these lessons then immediately cut to the modern world and see how some of these tasks are still being used today.

The documentary itself was one of the most beautifully shots movies of recent memory. The camera has a hazy filter that compliments the landscape of Eastern Europe that also compliments the apparent urban decay. It's strange to see such run-down buildings and crowded and faceless apartment complexes that are given such a loving look. Without saying anything, the director isn't criticizing the state of things or the people's poverty as much as it is revering it.

THE VANQUISHING OF HE WITCH BABA YAGA's strength also relies on its brevity. Clocking in barely an hour, it is an efficient and beautiful piece of cinema that warrants discussion.

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