The Devil’s Bath Review

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The Devil’s Bath Review

Review: Disturbing subject matter will make The Devil’s Bath a tough watch, but those willing to endure are treated to a harrowing journey.

PLOT: Austria in the 18th century. Forests surround villages. Killing a baby gets a woman sentenced to death. Agnes readies for married life with her beloved. But her mind and heart grow heavy. A gloomy path alone, evil thoughts arising.

REVIEW: Depression has been the backbone of many films for some time now. Whether it’s Midsommar and depression caused by loss, or heck even back to Jimmy Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life, it can really shape a narrative. And it’s only recently that we’ve started to become more accepting of mental health problems. Given how much human history exists, there are countless real-life events that highlight just how primitive we as humans can be. The Devil’s Bath does its job to highlight a time in Austrian history that most would rather forget.

Inspired by a historian on This American Life, The Devil’s Bath follows a woman named Agnes, who has recently married her beloved. But after her life becomes chores and unrealistic expectations with no release, she begins to question her life. Deeply religious, the idea of suicide was a faraway thought because of its damnation of the person’s soul. So in order to thwart that, depressed women would murder someone, usually a child, in order to be properly executed. Thus avoiding suicide and therefore avoiding eternal damnation. You can imagine where this story would get incredibly dark and uncomfortable.

The Devil's Bath review

Suicide by proxy is a terrifying notion but the idea of targeting poor defenseless children is enough to make anyone squeamish. It hits you with such intense imagery that it thankfully gives you subsequent moments to catch your breath. As per the era, the pacing is on the slower side but the narrative helps to keep some energy by really focusing on Anja Plaschg’s Agnes. I was shocked to learn that Anja isn’t an actress and is usually a musician because she is so impressive here. She brings such pathos to every small moment and really makes you feel her pain with just a look. Her descent into madness is wholly believable and never goes absurd.

There’s a moment so shocking that it left my mouth agape for a solid 30 seconds. That’s precisely what you need for a story like this, as those intense moments help to add a sense of uncertainty to every proceeding moment. And it doesn’t stop there, with some truly skin-crawling events that will stick with you. If you’re an animal lover then you’re going to have a rough go of it. A goat is drained of its blood and it’s all done on camera. Complete with full-blown skinning, it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. The subject matter is some of the darkest imaginable and not for the squeamish. Focusing on real-life events, it’s tough knowing that all of this happened in some form or another.

The Devil's Bath review

It’s easy to appreciate how expertly done the effects work manages to be. Avoiding CGI, this really does feel like a glimpse into the 18th Century. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala have already impressed in their careers with Goodnight, Mommy, and The Lodge but this feels like they’ve evolved. Creating a piece of art that transcends language and time is no easy feat and yet they pull it off succinctly. I can’t imagine The Devil’s Bath being a film people revisit often, because all it takes is one viewing and it’ll stick with you long after the credits roll.

THE DEVIL’S BATH IS STREAMING ON SHUDDER ON JUNE 28TH, 2024.

Review: Disturbing subject matter will make The Devil's Bath a tough watch, but those willing to endure are treated to a harrowing journey.

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/the-devils-bath-review/

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