Anna Goldin: the Last Witch –a tense, highly unusual psychodrama by Swiss Director Gertrud Pinkus–starts out as a decorous period piece, but rapidly plummets into psychological terror. Anne-Marie, the spoilt, sly little girl in a bourgeois household, develops a sexualized crush on Anna, the over-worked maid. Reprimanded by Anna, she starts vomiting pins, 106 of them, and develops what appears to be a pyschosomatic paralysis. Anna–once punished for infanticide–is tortured for witchcraft (gruesome depictions) and, finally, executed in 1782.
This psychologically sophisticated film, full of nuances and suggestions is reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman’s work. The troubling movie leaves questions: was there indeed an occult influence, a psychosocial disturbance like that Arthur Miller depicts in The Crucible? Feminist and Marxist in sensibility, the film depicts the economic oppression of working class women; it is savvy about the impossibility of Anna’s obtaining justice from the male bourgeois court (most “witches” were poor women).
The camera lovingly lingers over the bourgeois interiors and the endless “women’s work “in cameos worthy of Jan Vermeer. The lovely shots of the spring and fall, and of the Swiss Alps provide an ironic backdrop to the psychological terror. Watch Anna Goldin, not least of all for a joyous, dignified performance by Cornelia Pankers as Anna, the maid doomed for being female and poor.