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THE SINFUL WOMEN OF HÖLLFALL

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by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala

grade: 7

Perfectly according to the poetics of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, The Sinful Women of Höllfall mainly plays with feelings, fears and suggestions experienced by the characters themselves. What is staged is, in fact, the very fear of the Trud and the deep sense of guilt that such a legend has managed to generate in the past.

Who is afraid of the wicked witch?

It happened in (not too) distant 2018 that nine filmmakers from all over the world got together to create a rich collective project, comprising eight episodes – each shot by a different director – aimed at illustrating ancient folkloric traditions, with a horror touch, typical of the countries from which the directors themselves come from. And so The Field Guide to Evilcame to life, a captivating and fascinating anthology whose first episode – The Sinful Women of Höllfall (original title: Die Trud) – was made by the renowned Austrian directors Veronika Franz (wife of the famous Ulrich Seidl) and her nephew Severin Fiala, well-known outside Austria for having directed, in 2014, the controversial and disturbing Goodnight Mommy.

In staging, then, an ancient Austrian legend, the two of them relate in a very personal way to the terrifying figure of the Trud, born in the collective imagination as early as the Middle Ages and also known, within Germanic countries, by the names Alp, Mar, Mart, Mahr, Schrat or Walrider. But who, then, is this Trud? This entity is none other than a kind of demon, used to steal the breath during sleep from anyone who had committed any carnal sin. And so, for their The Sinful Women of Höllfall, the two directors chose a rural setting, with a predominantly gynocentric society, with a group of women who – around the middle of the 18th century – used to meet at the river to wash their clothes. One of them is young Kathi (played by Marlene Hauser), who, during one of her morning outings, exchanges effusions with a friend of hers. What will be the price to be paid for this behaviour?

Perfectly according to the poetics of the two directors, The Sinful Women of Höllfall mainly plays with feelings, fears and suggestions experienced by the characters themselves. What is staged is, in fact, the very fear of the Trud and the deep sense of guilt that such a legend has caused in the past. Here, then, are sophisticated plays of light and sound, striking images of decaying animals and frightening women’s faces with disfigured features. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, for their part, once again demonstrated excellent teamwork, fully aware of the form their work would take when finished. And if, for example, in the documentary Kern (2012), their first co-directed film, one could already guess what direction their cinema would take, now, starting with Goodnight Mommy, the two have officially chosen the path of horror cinema.

A cinema, theirs, in which not much place is given to splatter (although, when present, it hits like a punch to the stomach), but, on the contrary, what is put in the foreground are the emotions of the protagonists themselves, their suggestions, their worst nightmares. And this is achieved with a skilful minimal direction made up of frequent fixed shots, slow tracking shots and extremely dilated times. Almost as if one were waiting for something shocking. Everything else is achieved by distorted and amplified sounds, subtle plays of light and shadow, and environments that are often treated as real characters.

This singular mise-en-scène, then, is also that of The Sinful Women of Höllfall, a work suffering only from a necessary short duration. Indeed, having to include this short film within the aforementioned The Field Guide to Evil, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala had to adapt to an excessively short running time. And yet, the entire work would certainly have gained from a longer duration with unlimited, further possibilities regarding the main narrative twists. But that’s all right. This short, but interesting film generally works. And within the aforementioned collective project, it also proved to be qualitatively better than some of the films present. After all, by now, the two directors have practically become a guarantee for contemporary Austrian horror cinema.

Original title: Die Trud
Directed by: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Country/year: Austria / 2017
Running time: 22’
Genre: horror
Cast: Marlene Hauser, Luzia Oppermann, Birgit Minichmayr
Screenplay: Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala
Cinematography: Martin Gschlacht
Produced by: Ulrich Seidl Film Produktion GmbH, Timpson Films

Info: the page of The Sinful Women of Höllfall on the website of Ulrich Seidl; the page of The Sinful Women of Höllfall in the collective projact The Fiedl Guide to Evil on iMDb