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In THE FIFTH SEASON (having its North American premiere at
the current Toronto International Film Festival), writer/directors Jessica
Woodworth and Peter Brosens have created a dark, scary vision of a world
The film is set in a village in the rural Ardennes of
Belgium. The locals depend on their crops for food, and have tried folk magic
to end a snap of bitter cold—but their effigy of sacrificial Father Winter
eerily refuses to burn. The fertile season never comes, and nature goes out of
whack (the title refers to this distortion). Increasingly desperate, the
villagers begin to contemplate the use of a species of magic that will be
familiar to fans of THE WICKER MAN: human sacrifice. Hope of averting this
bloodshed, and finding another way to stave off the apocalypse, falls to a
group of unlikely heroes: two teenaged lovers, the local philosopher and his
son. With this premise as their starting point, the directors create a
tour de force of subtle filmmaking and brooding meditation on nature.
Despite the aforementioned similarity, THE FIFTH SEASON
doesn’t play like a WICKER MAN remake; the movies are very different. Where
WICKER MAN’s characters and imagery are colorful, FIFTH SEASON is all about
gloom. WICKER MAN stars Christopher Lee, while FIFTH SEASON features a cast of
haunting newcomers. And while WICKER MAN deals with many deep subjects, love is
not one of them, whereas FIFTH SEASON is concerned in significant part with
love and its absence, and how nature relates to those states. Many horror
movies and other sources have been distilled to make FIFTH SEASON a pure, cold
and original vision.
But fans of THE WICKER MAN should hope this new film finds
wide distribution. Since Robin Hardy’s iconic trip to Summerisle in 1973, no
work has dwelled on that journey’s central tropes with anything like FIFTH
SEASON’s enthusiasm. The filmmakers’ passion ultimately carries them away from
Summerisle to their own wondrous, unforgettable appointment.
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