Friday, June 23, 2006

Witch hunt

Marciara (Florinda Bolkan) leaves the village's police station in the early morning. She walks through the empty square, amongst the little white houses. She's free.
She had been arrested the day before, suspected of being the killer of three young boys. In fact she did not deny. She told the police she was guilty. She hysterically explained why she wanted to punish them and proudly described how she did black magic to do make the young boys die.
Yes she's the killer, and she's a witch!

Only trouble is the boys were strangled, a more down-to-earth way to die. Therefore Marciara the Witch can only be innocent. The rational thinking of the police sets her free, but also leaves her completely empty: if she has no magic power, then who is she but just a poor mad woman?

Now her mad eyes have turned to a sad and resignated expression, while she walks through the small streets of the village. She is harmless, she won't scare anybody anymore.
Yet the village inhabitants look at her suspiciously - after all, there's always been something wrong with that woman. She is the witch, so it's likely she killed their children.
They look at her as she walks past them. A look that sentences her to death.

On the way to her hideaway in the mountains, out of the village, she suddenly hears a noise. She knows exactly what is happening, and tries to run to hide in the graveyard nearby.
Too late. The villagers immediately catch her. Three of them, armed with wooden sticks and iron chains. They've turned on their car stereo loud, so nobody can hear the witch screaming.

The radio plays "
Quei Giorni Insieme a Te", by Ornella Vanoni, a beautiful song which becomes the soundtrack of her agony.

Bleeding and almost unconscious, she crawls in the dust to reach for the highway, where happy families pass by in their cars, not even seeing her.
There, a few meters from the asphalt, Marciara will die.
The modern world is oblivious to the death of a poor mad woman.

This extremely violent beating scene from Lucio Fulci's "Don't torture a duckling" is one of this masterpiece's highlights, thanks to Florinda Bolkan's stunning talent and Riz Ortoloni's evocative music which both give this moment an incredibly powerful emotional dimension. Get the score here and read more about this film here and there.


Richard Harland Smith said...

Very perceptive, as always. One of the truths embedded in the screenplay is that Marciara is just as guilty as everyone else in the film; she's mad, to be sure, and sympathetic up to a point, but in her own way she is mean-spirited and small-minded and her murder, however brutal, is a comeuppance, perhaps even a consumation devoutly to be wished. Her hatred of the victims and paradoxical innocence is juxtaposed interestingly against the killer's love for the victims and his culpability in their murders. Is it better to innocent in your hatred or guilty in your love? Or are they, as I suspect Fulci, et al are arguing here, one and the same?

robert said...

hey sylvain, a great film and one of fulci's most memorable sequences.

Sylvain L. said...

I like this idea of symmetry between two poles of "religion" in the film: one one hand archaic superstitions & black magic spreading hate but eventually proving to be harmless, and on the other hand the 'official' religion, spreading death in the name of love.