The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga review

The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga poster

With The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga, filmmaker Jessica Oreck uses a folk tale to deliver a contemplative, philosophical work about nature and civilization. Intertwining animated sequences – the tale of two kids lost in the forest – and images of Eastern Europe, she underlines the close bound between man and nature in this part of the world, most particularly emphasizing the influence of the forest. We see lumberjacks working, kids picking up mushrooms but Ms. Oreck also takes us for a drive through rural towns and desolated cities.

The pace is slow, the photography is simple but stunning at times and we quietly witness these scenes of everyday life, with only the moody soundtrack and a spare voiceover accompanying us. While there is strong imagery throughout the film, I was particularly enthralled by a breathtaking sequence inside an Orthodox Church and by a joyous wedding.

With its naturalistic themes and meditative tone, The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga is reminiscent of Russian cinema but, most importantly, of the hypnotic Qatsi trilogy, including its emblematic Philip Glass soundtrack. That said, it isn’t as powerful as Godfrey Reggio’s films, mostly because the combination of images and narrative aren’t that strong – and to be fair, it’s hard to compare to such high artistic standards. While featuring some beautiful moments, I found Ms. Oreck’s movie to be somewhat sluggish every now and then while the narrative might sometimes be far-fetched, trying to squeeze in too many ideas As a result, The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga lacks cohesion, which is makes it an appealing, ambitious but also flawed work.

Director: Jessica Oreck – Running Time: 1:13 – Year: 2014 – Country: USA, Ukraine, Russia
Click here to watch the Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga trailer
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.