Review: The Little Witch – That Little Hexe (2018)

The Little Witch – That Little Hexe (2018)

Directed by: Mike Schaerer | 103 minutes | comedy, drama, family | Actors: Karoline Herfurth, Axel Prahl, Luis Vorbach, Momo Beier, Suzanne von Borsody, Barbara Melzi, Carlin Spieß, Eveline Hall, Thereese Affolter, Angelika Böttiger, Katharina Bohny, Verena Bosshard

For a long time, Otfried Preußler (1923-2013) did not want to hear anything about film adaptations of his successful children’s books ‘Master of the Black Mill’, ‘The Little Waterman’ and ‘The Little Witch’. Especially that last book, which he had written especially for his daughters, was very close to his heart. “It was also one of the first stories he wrote,” explains Otfried’s daughter Susanne. “He wanted to show my sisters and me that we didn’t have to be afraid of witches. He was not looking forward to a film version of his beloved book; he was far too afraid that the filmmakers would not accurately portray the story and character of the little witch.” Producers Uli Putz and Jacob Claussen tried to gain the trust of the writer by first making a film version of ‘Master of the black mill’ (2008). Preußler saw the film and then wrote the filmmakers a letter. “I’m glad I recognize ‘my’ master of the black mill in your film.” In 2013, a film version of ‘The Ghost’ followed. Preußler could still have approved the design of the digitally created main character, but died during the post-production phase. Putz and Claussen kept in close contact with the family and expressed their deep wish to also film the much-loved ‘The Little Witch’. Susanne Preußler didn’t have to think twice: if anyone could do justice to the characters her father once created, it was Putz and Claussen. The two were given the green light and with the Swiss director Michael Schaerer and screenwriter Matthias Pacht on board, work could finally be done on the long-awaited, very first film adaptation of this German children’s classic.

The Little Witch (Karoline Herfurth) lives deep in the forest with her talking raven Abraxas (voice of Axel Prahl). She is only 127 – which is still very young for a witch – and is not yet allowed to go to the great witch festival that is celebrated on the Bloksberg during Walpurgis Night. But the Little Witch really wants to dance with the other witches and fly around on her broomstick, so she decides to sneak there. When she is caught, the other witches are furious. She may only return to the Bloksberg if she memorizes all the spells of the great magic book within one year. The Little Witch practices the craziest witch spells for days, plays a lot of tricks and rolls from one adventure to the next with Abraxas and her friends Thomas (Luis Vorbach) and Fietje (Momo Beier). Will she be able to remember all the spells and convince everyone in the forest that she is the very best?

The first thing that strikes you about the film adaptation of ‘The Little Witch’ is that the film looks really beautiful: the forest house where the Little Witch lives is as idyllic as it is mysterious and could have been in the Fairytale Forest in the Efteling. It is colourful, here and there a bit crooked and above all very cosy. The technical team behind ‘The Little Witch’ has been extensively inspired by the drawings of Winnie Gebhart-Gayler from the now sixty-year-old book. Also very cleverly done is the raven Abraxas, the Little Witch’s loyal ally, who acts as her conscience at times. Two lifelike raven dolls and a 3D model were used and the result is stunning. And so the film is full of technically excellent tricks, made with a budget that makes Hollywood barely out of bed. Just take, for example, the tricks and mischief that the Little Witch pulls off – extremely effective in all their simplicity. Karoline Herfurth, with her slightly mischievous appearance and furtive looks, is perfect for this role; the fact that her voice is dubbed in the Dutch version by Vivienne van den Assem does not disturb at all. There is plenty to do for the youth with this film. Witches are of course a bit exciting, and that certainly applies to the older witches that our title heroine gets into trouble with. Fortunately, the Little Witch herself isn’t scary or mean at all, but uses her magic to help people where she can.

The message between good and evil is not new and fairly standard, but the form in which it is cast in ‘The Little Witch’ more than makes up for that lack of originality. Technically, this German production is excellent; they have managed to achieve maximum effect with modest means. The story is timeless and also appeals to the youngest generation of film viewers. With Karoline Herfurth and the lifelike mechanical raven Abraxas, the film also has two appealing protagonists. ‘The little witch’ keeps it mild but has it all: humor, tension and emotion. Fun movie to watch with the whole family!

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