Maleficarum (2011) Poster


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Mariana de Castro and Francisca de la Cruz fall in the hands of the inquisition.
jacavila13 December 2011
Maleficarum is getting a lot of attention. This is a review that appeared online: "A pretty powerful and disturbing movie: Disturbing because the film doesn't really hold back in its many torture scenes, some of which are less than easy to stomach, but powerful because despite all the torture, the film manages to tell a rich story full of interesting characters, it manages to make the love between the two tortured girls who go through hell together rather than betraying one another, and the direction (successfully) aims for atmosphere rather than sleaze.

To put it shortly, a very nice, well-made film. Recommended – but for above reasons probably not for everybody." Mike Haberfelner (re)Search My Trash
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Review of Maleficarum (2011)
EdaChang17 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Warning: This is a brutal film that definitely will not appeal to everyone. It involves extensive female nudity and torture and falls into the "church torture of heretics" genre.

Now that you know what to expect in general:

The technical quality of the cinematography, and the authenticity of the sets and costumes gives this film a definite sense of "big budget theatrical release," which is completely unexpected for a film in this genre, particularly one made on a stated budget of only $105,000.

Despite falling into the "torture" genre, the film does not rush into those scenes, but takes the time necessary to set up its story and characters, and does so with a calm that very much contrasts with later events. For a time, in fact, the head of the church, the women's main accuser, truly appears interested in saving their souls, rather than in taking their money. While it is obvious immediately that things will not go well for Lady Francisca (Mila) when she does not agree to the church's request for a large monetary donation, the background music remains soothing, rather than ominous, throughout the film, thereby contrasting what is happening in most of the scenes over which it is played. Even the opening questioning of the two women is understated, although Lady Mariana (Amy) gradually becomes more terrified as it becomes apparent that the charges against her are far more serious than her mere involvement in the minor altercation that had led to the appearance of the two ladies before the inquisitor tribunal.

The juxtaposition throughout the film of the scenes in which the head inquisitor calmly questions the many witnesses against the women with the scenes of Mariana and Francisca being brought to the dungeon, stripped, chained to the wall and subject to a variety of tortures was masterful, effectively presenting the unimaginable tension, terror and pain that lay just beneath the facade of a calm search for the truth.

The dungeon set, as expected, presents a sense of absolute doom and dread, with its hard, cold stone walls and dim flickering lights. The ways in which the director, Jac Avila, chains and stretches the two women make it obvious that he knows how to create, consistently, scenes that are visually appealing and exciting to the viewer, while, at the same time, magnifying the horror facing his subjects. The two lead actresses, Mila and Jane, are absolutely beautiful in their extended whipping scenes, during which both show proper reaction as their tortures harshen. Jane's whipping scene is particularly brutal, since she is forced to hang by her chained wrists with her feet off the ground, her body swinging with each lash, a position that, on its own, certainly must have caused great pain to her shoulders. Nor are there any weak flicks of the wrist from their torturer, but full arm motion with every blow. Whatever filming techniques may have been used, it is impossible to believe that Jane and Mila were not subject to some real pain during the filming of these whipping scenes.

Mila and Jane are also stunningly filmed in their respective scenes on the rack, the beauty of their stretched and sweating bodies, backs arched off the rack's table, enhanced by the varying camera angles, particularly the shots from the overhead camera. There is no bend in their wrists or knees, which are shown chafed and bleeding as the ropes securing them dig deeply. While the viewer does not expect that the women are actually being stretched to their absolute limit, it is certainly easy to believe that they are, which, after all, is the goal of good filmmaking.

Repeatedly in the middle of the torture scenes, the men from the church enter, calmly ask whether the tortured women are ready to talk, and then, just as calmly leave to allow the tortures to continue when the women refuse to respond. Unlike the majority of the film's viewers, these church men are not excited by the torture of naked women, but simply want their confessions and the transfer of their wealth to them. That they are such cold pitiless men adds to the terror of the women's plight.

Other of the torture scenes are out of the norm even for films in this genre, and are also done excellently, but no more can be said about them without pushing the "spoiler" content of this review too far.

As much as I enjoyed the film, I do have several criticisms: (1) While Amy is an excellent actress, Mila does not yet have the training or experience to match Amy, but this criticism relates only to Mila's delivery of her dialog, as she gives an excellent performance in her reactions to her tortures. (2) I would have preferred that Francisca and Mariana not have been subject to the same tortures (for example, the same whipping and rack tortures), particularly not one after the other, during the first half of the film, and I also would have preferred a torture to Francisca other than a repeat whipping after her sentencing. (3) I don't know why Mariana's clothes were put back on before she was taken outside, only to be immediately removed again. Nakedness indoors has a degree of privacy, while nakedness outdoors exposes one, at least figuratively, to the whole world. So leaving Mariana naked when she was moved outdoors would have, I think, more realistically and more strongly conveyed the sense of increased psychological exposure that the film apparently sought. (4) The ending, which I can't reveal for "spoiler" reasons. I have several thoughts as to why the particular ending was chosen, but, even if my suspicions are correct, there are several other possible endings that I would have preferred.

All things considered, an excellent film for those who like films of this genre. But definitely not for the weak of heart.
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Brutally realistic historical film
l_beria10 May 2012
A wealthy orphan (an adult, but whose parents have died and is as yet, unmarried - so, in that period, unprotected) befriends another woman who has lost her husband and is now a homeless widow. Their relationship has lesbian elements - which of course are "beyond the pale" in the era; additionally, the friend is "horror of horrors" - a Lutheran - in other words - a heretic! And the orphan is wealthy... The Inquisition steps in soon enough and when the two women prove 'uncooperative'- this film pulls no punches. The film shows both how the two women are slowly but surely broken in graphic detail and, showing interviews the inquisitors have with various witnesses, also how the common beliefs of the time justified it. The torture is shown historically accurately being done to the women's totally nude bodies...
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Inquisition standard in Lima, Peru, around 1700, probably a true story, made like a documentary.
clanciai11 May 2015
This is a very remarkable film for its total restraint in depicting a story of extreme outrage. It brings associations directly to the Danish director Carl Th. Dreyer and his films, especially "The Day of Wrath" 1943, but maybe more specifically to "The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc", since this is also a close-up of the martyrdom of woman, in this instance even doubly so, since there are two. The story in itself is the ghastliest possible, the two young ladies prosecuted by the inquisition for forbidden love being tortured one by one while the other one is forced to look on in increasingly accelerating cruelty to extract a forced confession of witchery. When the confession finally is accomplished, they are subjected to no less severe punishment none the less in a total judicial murder, just because of the greed of the church to obtain the property of the one young ladý who from her parents has inherited the greatest fortune in Peru - this is somewhere around 1700. The film is accompanied all through by the most intimately pleasing chamber music, mainly guitar, which enhances the grotesqueness of the terror proceedings even more.

The director Jac Avila from Bolivia is also the writer and the producer of the film, and it is definitely a masterpiece, with the vital contribution of Amy Hesketh as the main victim - her acting is quite comparable with Maria Falconetti's in "The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc". Still, the torture scenes, that never cease to get worse and seem more endless each time, must make this film unbearable to many, and it's impossible for anyone, I think, not to look away more often than not. A masterpiece of a genius making a deep and lasting impression - an unforgettable film, that however you would not like to see again. The impression is too strong not to leave you almost as branded as the victims.
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From an important director to watch, unforgettable horror with a point, because it's real...real history.
cd7-523-89357226 February 2013
MALEFICARUM was more than I had expected. Jac Avila, the director, has made an unforgettable and important film. The actors, especially Amy Hesketh and Mila Joya, totally sold it. Avila's direction and the women's performances made their plight horribly believable, completely real, and yet heroic. Several scenes are going to keep replaying in my mind. Having the Inquisition torture scenes interrupted by the "reality show" testimonies (based on real witness documents from the historic case upon which the film is based), kept me from becoming numb to the brutality of what was happening. If the director feels as I do about the insanity of the Inquisition, he drove that message straight to the heart. But incredibly, this is also a love story, defiant love facing hopeless horror. And because this is real life historical horror, you can't squirm out of it with that "it's only a movie" schtick. It's even made to feel like a documentary of sorts, and in my opinion, this is as real as a film about this subject can get. All praise to everyone involved for their determination to make it that way. This film does not pull its punches or make excuses. Avila is an important director, folks. Believe it.
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A Historical Fiction Done Well
Gerald194617 December 2011
Maleficarum (2011) by Jac Avila is a good screen play by an independent Bolivian film company. It is a good historical fiction loosely based on María Francisca Ana de Castro, a Spanish immigrant to Alta Peru, who was renowned for her beauty and wealth. She was arrested and accused of "judaizing". After many days of Torture before confessing; She was burned at the stake in 1726. This event was a major spectacle in Lima, but it raised questions about possible irregular procedures and about the corruption within the Inquisition, this lead to the end of The Holy Office (The Inquisition) in Peru. The director, Jac Avila, and actors try to recreated the actual realistic suffering in great detail of what the victims of the Spanish Inquisition had to endure. The best was the director's use of the actors' facial and body language, it was very cerebral and visual at the same time. This viewer marveled at the simplicity of that movie and how it got its complex message across, the script and the story plot was very well thought out. The dialogs of the accusers and witnesses did well in showing the bias and superstitions of that time.
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I think I saw another movie!
pv6131 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
After watching the movie and reading this reviews, I doubt we saw the same movie. For starters, I have watched a lot of those ''torture movies'' from the seventies and they were more convincing than this one, far more realistic, and they were made more than 40 years ago.

Here, the locations and sets look too clean and bright to be the 1700s, the women, who spent most of the movie naked and being tortured for way too long periods of time (unnecessary if you ask me) had their pubes trimmed, and that's another thing that didn't happened in those times, I don't want to say that were also thin and had nice bodies, but back in that time, I doubt most women looked that good! Then the nanny, with makeup and false eyelashes! Really? Is that so, considering that time where the movie is set? One of the girls is a widow, and she speaks with some kind of accent. Both speak so low and one of them doesn't even move her lips, like she's doing some ventriloquist act. I doubt they're actresses, but girls who accepted to be naked for most of the film, and to show everything, there's no need of histrionic skills, right? Then we have the people who are being interviewed by the church. Nobody spoke correctly, seem to me they didn't spend a dime in professionals, and while they were telling their version of the story, we had to endure the same flashback over and over for more than ten times. The widow was coming down the street, some other women verbally attacked her, then Lady Francisca came to her rescue and they both were caught by the church guards, over and over... I don't know why people keep making movies without knowing how to make them. The movie shouldn't consist in two naked women being tortured for almost one hour plus some other unimportant stuff to fill time up. This movie is bad. The acting is bad, the setting and lighting is bad, overall a bad movie that exploits the theme of the inquisition just to show two naked women being tortured. For me, the only thing decent is the story, true or not, of the Church greedy for money and using everything in their power to have it no mater what. In the end, the Priest gets what he deserved. If you watch this movie, don't expect too much, is empty! It doesn't make you feel anything for anybody!
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gillesthibault715 April 2012
Many film were produced on behalf of the Holy Iquistion and their extremely brutal ways of obtaining a confession .... Most of them were exploring rather the side of the fault, the trial testimony, judgement, and finally, the punishment! They represented all of it, with very few torture scenes! Jac Avila brings us, with his film Maleficarum (2011), in the depths of dark dungeons and explore more thoroughly the torments inflicted on the victims.

Each of the torture scenes are incredibly realistic and the acting is excellent and especially that of Amy Hesketh.

The story of two women in love with each other, falsely accused facing the Holy Inquisition .... A must see movie ....
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Best Inquisition movie
filmlover-01236 February 2014
This is arguably one of the best "Inquisition movies" ever made. Not because it can directly compete with bigger budget productions, but, on the contrary, despite being a low-budget film, it nicely exploits the movie-making art at its best to really convey the idea of what the Inquisition was. We know that most of these movies, more often than not, were made mostly as an excuse to show naked beautiful ladies under distress. More like a kind of BDSM movie sub-genre. As such, they don't really delve too much into the specifics of *why* such things happened, and often times, *how* these inquisitions were actually conducted. Lame plots are often the norm. What I found most remarkable about this movie is that it portrays the violence within a well-documented and researched historical context, thus in a way justifying the torture scenes. The audience has a unique opportunity to grasp the unimaginable degree of power, ignorance, and savagery from the ever-present Church, under which the people in those times spent their lives.

Amy's acting is really remarkable. I got really moved by the scenes where Mariana suffers for seeing what her love Francisca is enduring. These seem to be actual tears, and I felt it in my throat, no kidding. When they touch their hands, when Francisca lovingly strokes a broken Mariana on her lap, I really felt shaken by the love and suffering there. Amy also conveys the sense of actual pain under torture, which becomes unsettling after a while. I wish Mila could deliver the same degree of drama, but she falls a bit short on the task, especially when delivering a line. I also found Amy's accent a bit out of place, given the perfect (to me, a Portuguese speaker..) accent of the other actors. Of course, it is too much to ask that she should, besides all that she has done already, still speak perfectly non-accented Spanish, being born and raised in the US. Please, Amy and Mila, don't take this badly, I can only imagine what it is to perform that kind of role for an audience. Or just for the film crew. You both are brave beautiful actresses and deserve praise.

Also worth mentioning is Roberto Lopez's portrayal of the inquisitor. I was impressed by his delivery, especially in the initial scenes, of an apparently well-mannered, soft-spoken, and well-intended priest, which was as much interested in the heiress' wealth as in actually "saving" the accused. Along the interrogations, he seems dispassionate and not impressed by the suffering he is imposing on the victims. It dawned on me that it probably was the case indeed, for those church men, as everybody else in those times, lived in a magical world with very, very different values and world views than we live in today. We just cannot grasp, much less judge, what went inside their minds. Life and death were ranked very differently in those days than they are today for us. Inquisition movies usually portray the interrogators as plain evil creatures, but, after watching this movie, it seems to me that, as usual, things might not be so clear-cut (please don't take these remarks as a justification for anything!). Roberto's performance was probably much more on the mark than many.

Having seen the interviews and reviews, it really stand out to me some aspects of the production and direction: the care with the costume and prop design and making (Amy's work!), the quasi-documentary style that lends action to a plot line that would be otherwise too dry, the editing that makes up for the lack of camera movement. No doubt due to the cramped space in the dungeon, and lack of expensive camera gear such as dolly and crane for exterior scenes..

I was delighted to find that this is a Bolivian production. Being born and raised in South America myself, I know well how difficult it is to work under very limited budgets and oftentimes an uncooperative environment. I can only praise the film's entire crew for achieving such good quality in this movie.
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Really Good Film
ryan_potochnik28 May 2013
To Parents Who Read Info About This Movie Please Read This Since I Cannot Put Anything On The Parental Advisory Part Of This Movie This Movie Contains Graphic And Explicit Scenes Which May Not Be Suitable To All Viewers VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED

I Have Been Since Yesterday Watched A Free Version Of Maleficarum Starring Amy Hesketh And Mila Joya As They Faced Inquisition I Think Mila Joya Should Have Gotten The Same Amount Of Torture As Hesketh But In Spite Of This I Think Its Really Good And Very Realistic I Like To Watch It Over And Over Again In Short I High Recommend It On A Scale Of One To Ten I Give It A Eight Or In The Words Of Ebert And Roper Or Siskel And Ebert I Give It Two Thumbs Up Or In The Words Of Some Other Movie Critic I Give It Four Stars

And In My Book This Movie Is Rated R For Graphic Violence Nudity Sensuality And Adult Situations
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