Home Reviews Films Film Review – THE DEVIL’S BATH: Anja Plaschg Astonishes in a Performance That Drives a Movie Full of Tension and Unrelenting Doom and Gloom [Tribeca 2024]

Film Review – THE DEVIL’S BATH: Anja Plaschg Astonishes in a Performance That Drives a Movie Full of Tension and Unrelenting Doom and Gloom [Tribeca 2024]

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Film Review – THE DEVIL’S BATH: Anja Plaschg Astonishes in a Performance That Drives a Movie Full of Tension and Unrelenting Doom and Gloom [Tribeca 2024]

Anja Plaschg Back The Devils Bath

The Devil’s Bath Review

The Devil’s Bath (2024) Film Review from the 23rd Annual Tribeca Film Festival, a movie written and directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz and starring Anja Plaschg, Maria Hofstätter, David Scheid, Tim Valerian Alberti, Natalya Baranova and Franziska Holzer.

The Devil’s Bath is the type of movie that could only be made by two filmmakers. That’s because to make a movie as daring as this one, there would have to be two people at the helm who both equally believe in the material to get it made as audaciously as this new film has been directed. While watching this new film directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, I had a sinking feeling that I haven’t had at a movie since 1996’s Lars von Trier masterpiece, Breaking the Waves. Much more gut-wrenching and horrific (though not necessarily better) than von Trier’s film, The Devil’s Bath highlights Anja Plaschg in a performance that would win many major awards if not for the topic the film is based upon. Plaschg’s work reminds me of Emily Watson’s riveting turn in Breaking the Waves and by taking on this role here, Plaschg has emerged as one of the most brave and bold performers working today.

Set in Austria in the 18th century, the film foreshadows its lead character, Agnes (Plaschg)’s fate right from the outset. As the film begins, an older woman drops a baby into a waterfall. It’s a disturbing scene but given the bright backdrop, it takes a moment for what has just happened to sink into the viewer’s mind. Though the film doesn’t reveal the true details of what is to come in the picture until the words featured at the movie’s conclusion spell out the “why” here, the events of the film revolve around the premise that a distraught woman tired by the mundane and/or grueling nature of life could take a child’s life to try to prevent herself from going to hell when she prematurely dies. Why kill a kid, though? A young person’s life has not been established so the child would go to heaven whereas the child killer would possibly avoid going to hell because that murderer didn’t take her own life. Yeah, people thought this way once and it’s portrayed in vivid detail in The Devil’s Bath.

Trapped in a dead-end marriage with an ordinary man named Wolf (David Scheid), there is still seemingly some sort of love between Wolf and Agnes even after the grueling events of the movie take place. Wolf shows up at her “execution” which leads the audience to believe he honestly loved her. But, the awkward way that Wolf doesn’t show his affections for Agnes leads to dire circumstances throughout the film that drive the movie’s heavy (and “heavy” is a gross understatement) themes.

The “piece de resistance” of The Devil’s Bath (well there are probably a couple of them, but the primary one) is the sequence where Agnes begs a priest to listen and understand her circumstances in a confessional. The priest listens and Anja Plaschg “goes for broke” with a wearying, emotionally devastating performance that hits it out of the park and is both disturbing and powerful, simultaneously. Not since Watson’s turn in Breaking the Waves, have I seen a sequence this frightening and draining. The Devil’s Bath is a horrific sequence of events framed as a movie that will gut the audience and scare the living hell out of them.

Is The Devil’s Bath a good film? Scheid is solid and believable in his part while Maria Hofstätter is frighteningly effective as Wolf’s mother, Gänglin, who you can almost see turning Agnes into a murderer by the way the mother treats her. The creation of a murderer has never been more effectively displayed on-screen than in this movie. Agnes takes rat poison at one point which further demonstrates the disturbing, unrelenting nature of the movie. But, to answer the question, is this is a “good” film? I can’t answer the question, to be honest, but I can say that hard work and commitment went into the project, fourfold.

Two things could happen from this movie. Plaschg could never work again or she could be rewarded with accolades and cherished as an actress. I hope that the latter happens because the physical and mental exhaustion that the actress could have undergone to play this role makes it all the more effective, whether she experienced that or not while doing the role. This film ends as people drink blood squirting out of another person’s head after a decapitation. It’s not a pleasant film at all in any of its provocative sections. But, it’s a committed film and it carries through on its promise to get to Point A to Point B. Great acting is present in many scenes featuring Plaschg, in particular.

The Devil’s Bath is the type of movie that will shake you for days. When it was over, I felt “off-kilter” walking out of the theater because of the impact the picture made. I couldn’t tell you if anyone was still seated in the auditorium or if they had left before the ending. We usually don’t talk about things like that in a review but here, I think it’s relevant. This movie will get under the viewer’s skin and remains a piece of film-making that is unique and compelling. I just don’t know if it’s a good film but, even if performances like this shouldn’t be commonplace in movies, the acting by Plaschg is, in a word, phenomenal.

Rating: 7/10

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