Akelarre Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

“Akelarre” / Akelarre

Drama genre
Directed by Pablo Agero
Cast Amaya Aberasturi (Anna), Alex Brendemühl (judge), Daniel Fanego (counselor), Garazi Urkola (Catalina), Yone Laspur (Maider), Daniel Chamorro (judge secretary) and others.
Pages Sorgin Films, Kowalski Films, Lamia Productions
Release year 2021
Site IMDb

Basque country, 1609. In the north of Spain, the pursuit of witches continues, who are calculated and caught thanks to denunciations. This process is led by a respected judge, determined to find those who will reveal the secrets of the coven to the authorities. On his orders, the next suspects are arrested – a group of young girls from a rural village who held meetings in a forest clearing. At first they deny all accusations, and as the execution approaches, they begin to reveal the details of satanic rites.

Quite often, such plots from a dramatic plot gradually turn into gloomy horror, where the soldiers of the Inquisition come to grips with otherworldly forces, faced with witchcraft power. In Akelarra, things develop differently, there is little room for doubt about who the suspects really are. However, as the judge leads the interrogation and finds evidence of witchcraft, the film makes it pretty clear that it’s not the incarcerated who are obsessed with heresy.

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The tape has an interesting historical basis, which indicates the events that took place in a particular region. The culture of the Basque Country was significantly different from what was common in other parts of Spain, and this became a key feature of the script.

Basque folk customs are based on paganism, so young people, when they got together, did not limit themselves to religious boundaries (in the film, this can be seen in flashbacks in which girls sing songs and smoke a pipe in the forest thicket). The Basque language was also alien to the Spaniards, so in the tape, the inquisitors take the local folklore for devilish spells, which the suspects unanimously repeat. There is another curious fact: the original title of the film Akelarre is translated into Spanish as a witches’ sabbath, and in Basque this word was called artiodactyls – goats.

The interrogation procedure, accompanied by torture, is shown in the film according to historical ideas about such processes. It was supposed to ask about connections with evil spirits in the presence of a priest and a secretary, and a judge led a conditional investigation. In the film, the role of an official was played by the famous Spanish actor Alex Brendemühl – his character is obsessed with witch secrets, so he makes an arrest even before the investigation begins. Brendemühl’s hero, fascinated by the details of the coven (in which he probably sees his hidden desires), is so inspired by the captured prisoners that he actually pushes them to stage a grandiose theatrical action.

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The heroines of “Akelarre”, losing hope of justification, gradually turn into those who they want to see. This is where the film’s directors don’t resort to visual effects, leaving the actresses to recreate something frightening and mesmerizing by lighting a simple campfire. Their dances and songs are so united that young girls with fantasy and inner freedom inspire fear in others, prompting those present to believe in otherworldly forces again.

If the investigation of the Inquisition is led by a judge resembling the devil, then one of the prisoners becomes the leader of the witches, who uses the talent of the storyteller. Sitting in a dungeon where only the rays of daylight fall, she (played by actress Amaya Aberasturi) develops the story in the direction of forbidden, but clearly expected details from her. To all this, the scriptwriters add feminist meanings, hinting at the established framework and inner freedom misunderstood by others (which turns out quite well, except for the symbolic monologue of the tavern owner).

Thus the film “Akelarre” becomes another curious look through history at the trial of the Inquisition, which suppressed the freedom of the Basque Country, distinguished by its traditions.

The tape does not have the breadth of storylines, so it briefly and rather quickly covers one judicial case, pointing to the true and only heretic. All for the sake of a spectacular scene in the finale, which is staged better than the horror covens.

https://youtu.be/f5spjUuviok

Pros: Inquisition on the example of cultural differences in the Basque Country; modern rethinking; staging a coven without visual effects; the role of actress Amaya Aberasturi Cons: almost one storyline; a clearly defined negative character Conclusion:

a curious Spanish film about how, under strong pressure, you can turn into what they want to see you.

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