By Paul Westwood
The Witch’s Mask is a romantic fantasy drama of a young man in his late teens who suffered traumatic nightmare in his childhood. The dreams return in his adult life portraying a seemingly past life event in the seventeenth century when he fell in love with a girl who was accused of witchcraft. As the story in the dreams unfold, they have profound effect on his life till finally she appears to him as a ghost.
At a young age, Steven suffered a disturbing nightmare of being tortured by a glowing hot iron being put in his mouth. The experience was so traumatic that the sensation lasted for weeks afterwards. Years later in his late teens he helped his father prepare food in their family hotel.
After a routine day, he retired to staffroom before going to bed. During the night, he suffered another disturbing dream. He dreamt of a past age, and a strange girl called Anne who he met in the woods by a dirt track road. She was dressed in black and worn a capotain. She kept her appearance a secret by hiding her face behind a silk visard. The mysterious girl had a profound effect on him. Later in the dream he met men on the road looking for the girl. One of the men was a lawyer with his accomplice. The rest were poor local farmers. After discovering that they were on a witch hunt for the girl, he followed them back along the road. When they arrived at the spot where he met the girl, he found that she was still there. She made no attempt to run, but challenged their charge of witchcraft. When she was seized by the witch hunters, he made eye contact with her. She seemed to touch his very soul, and fell deeply in love with her.
Waking from his dream, he woke in a deeply emotional state. The previous night’s dream weighed heavily on his mind. His mother noticed he wasn’t his usual self, and he said little of the dream that he experienced. Later, he had another dream. It was like a continuation of the previous dream. He was arguing with the villagers over the girl. The women were pious, and blamed the girl for bewitching their men folk. It was them that had bought in the lawyer to try the girl for witchcraft. But she suffered a trial by witch swimming to determine her guilt.
On waking from this dream, he researched all the facts from the dream at his local library. He discovered many known facts about witch trials fit his dreams. How could have known these facts if they were not true. Later, alone in the staffroom, he questioned and examined the implications of the dreams. He asked himself, “If the dreams are true, it means I am reincarnated, and if I am reincarnated where is Anne? Is she living or is spirit? And if she is alive, where is she? She could be anywhere, any country, any age. She could be a baby or some old woman in an old people’s home. She could be single or she could be married. Where is she?”
His questions were soon answered by another dream. This time Anne stood at the bottom of the bed and was responsive to his questions. She was with him in the present and was a ghost.
Techniques and Style
The dreams will be shot in first person single point of view using long takes and montage, while Steven’s waking moments will be shot in third person using continuity shots.
There are two narratives to the story, one in Steven’s dreams and one in the present. The two stories come together in the present in the final resolution of the story. The audience aren’t told everything and are left to make up their own opinions. An unanswered question would be, are the dreams real or just dreams? This would be down to the audience’s belief. Another question would be, was Anne a witch or an accused young girl who was victim of the villages prejudice. The film aims to provoke an emotional response from the audience through Steven’s pain of lost love and then being reunited. But Steven’s problem is far from resolved, because they are still worlds apart.
The film challenges beliefs on a religious and personal level. One of the challenges is the feminist view that the witch persecution was implemented by men to dominate and suppress women. In the film, the witch trial was implemented by pious women who were against Anne for her influence on their men folk.
I have tried to distance the film from modern cultural preconceptions of the image of the witch, which is influenced through Halloween and The Wizard of Oz. Focusing instead on historical root influences of the witch persecution from mid seventeenth century England during the English Civil War.
Anne’s dress and hat were fashionable among the rising middle class of the time. The type of hat worn by Anne was called a capotain, which was a wide brimmed tall hat made from felt from beaver skins brought back from the colonies. Ann’s dress was also black. The dyes used to dye the dress were also expensive and worn by the richer population. The visard used by Anne were used at that time as a fashion item, used by women to protect their complexations from the sun. The visard’s beginnings went back to the early Shakespearean theatre when women would hide their identity when visiting the theatre. The mask would later become a symbol of the theatre. The Visard could have been used like the Venetian Moretta, which granted women a degree independence in deciding who they wanted to talk to and to start a relationship with. This is probable what happened to Steven.