I’ve heard good things about this film.
A general buzz, and I’d been anticipating the opportunity to finally legally stream it one night. Then of course, as fate would happen, that night was the 4th of July.
I’m not sure where you live in the world (I receive a lot of South Asian and European traffic) but major cities across the U.S. have been a literal powder keg leading up to the independence day celebration.
(There’s a great post on the NYC subreddit if you’d like to learn more about it.)
So on that fateful night, to a myriad of actual gunshots tinged with illegal fireworks outside my window, I stumbled upon The Witch: Part 1 The Subversion on Netflix.
And, I was surprised to say the least by what I saw…
Kim Da Mi is a great up and coming actress.
In Itaewon Class, she played the sociopathic Jo Yi Seo who never reformed, but learned to deal with her mental illness and cruel tendencies for the better. I. E., using that ruthlessness to aid I.C.’s business acumen in lieu of simply filling vanity.
So when the film opened to her playing a simple farm girl going by the name Koo Ja Yoon, I didn’t give it a second thought. I usually don’t talk about the abilities of an actual actress to portray a character much in my reviews, rather choosing to focus on the base story but – everything Koo Ja Yoon is as a character is because of Kim Da Mi’s portrayal of her.
Ja Yoon is an ordinary girl who frequently tires easily. She has a best friend named Myung Hee who eats too many snacks, speaks too loudly, and has a certain naivety when it comes to reading the air.
Myung Hee steals the attention from Ja Yoon in each scene they are in together, and I don’t think the young witch would have it any other way.
Because of this fact, we can almost write off the farming supply owner’s son hypnotically giving Ja Yoon everything she wants without paying.
We can write off his father nonchalantly asking (to paraphrase) ‘what spell has that girl cast upon you?’
We can write off in his next breath, the same man sticking up for Ja Yoon driving without a license to the local sheriff – Myung Hee’s father.
Kim Da Mi has a certain quality where innocence shines through her face. It’s a weird way to explain it, but she just exudes unsuspecting. This is not even to typecast the actress, just a commentary on her natural onscreen aura.
It was this quality that made her portrayal of Jo Yi Seo so raw and authentic. And, it was this quality that lead me to believe the plot twist towards the end of the film so wholeheartedly.
Set in a secret government facility in the countryside, children are bred and engineered to become assassins. Super soldiers, or Manchurian Candidates if you will.
They have a physical mother playing the role of handler and caretaker in Dr. Baek.
It is her job to nurture the children just enough that they won’t become unruly, but also to play her role as scientist and authoritarian over her ‘works’.
If you’ve seen The Promised Neverland anime, you should be familiar with this concept.
In The Promised Neverland, ‘Mama’ Isabella serves as the children’s handler to nurture them and subdue them into loyalty until the time comes to sell them. Isabella even births one of her child prisoners, Ray.
It is nothing new in media by a long shot, and despite the repeated repetition possibly being a ‘lesser magic’ cast in the form of consented disclosure, many people don’t seem to recognize the patterns.
Or, repeatedly ignore them due to ignorance or wistfully thinking its “just tv”.
The children at the facility are given numbers instead of names. They are genetically engineered to use a high percentage of their brains, as in the American film Limitless.
One day however, an inevitable mutiny erupts and the children try to escape. Many are killed, but one makes it through the forest and successfully walks into a new life.
Since we’re talking about parallel’s here, I would like to remind you all that the masterpiece Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance) shares the same plot. Twelve being the only successful subject of the experiment who suffered no side effects.
In The Witch’s case, the perfect subject being Ja Yoon.
As with how these stories go, the ones who were left behind are sent to find (and possibly eliminate) the one who found freedom.
Ja Yoon’s peaceful life is turned upside down, as strange men in cars appear outside her TV show performances. A strange boy named Gui Gong Ja (the Nobleman) keeps showing up and seemingly warning Ja Yoon of the impending doom.
In the beginning of the film, it was shown that he wanted to go after her during the escape attempt. The film heavily implies that he may have feelings for her, much to the dismay of his other comrades.
Although explicitly unstated, it is also implied that after the failed escape attempt the remaining children were shipped off to a sister facility in America. The Korean facility was then closed, or dormant for many years. This may be why the others speak fluent English and have been tamed to do as they are told.
There is a lot more to unpack concerning this series, but I think I’ll leave this review here for now. Or at least, until next year when The Witch: Part 2 sequel is slated to come out.
I will however, be covering a more in-depth analysis of the mind-control techniques used on the children in this film along with others in popular media. Look out for that article to drop sometime this week.
Anyway, The Witch: Part 1 The Subversion is a great film and well worth the watch. If you’ve already seen the film, tell me what you think! Did you enjoy the part 1 ending?
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☆ In Asian Spaces