The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man ★★★★★

Hey look, it’s one of those movies I’ll be thinking about for the rest of my life!

There’s obviously a ton to praise about the script, the direction and the gorgeous daylight cinematography, to say nothing of Edward Woodward’s remarkable performance as Sergeant Howie. But what strikes me is the richness of this text.

On the level of theme, you can “read” THE WICKER MAN as a film about the conflict between paganism and Christian religion, of the Christian struggle to retain faith in a secular society. You can read it as a film about danger of groupthink, or a dramatization of the violence that underpins even the most idyllic societies. You can read it as a cautionary tale about the fascistic impulses within romanticism, and you can read it as a film about the conflict between capitalist modernity — embodied in the Police Officer, who represents the state’s capacity for violence and its demand for conformity and order — and pre-capitalist modes of living. You can also read it, on a somewhat similar level, as representing the conflict between a Weberian legal authority versus a traditional-charismatic authority, the latter represented by Christopher Lee’s Lord Summerisle. It even works, in its final scenes, as a commentary on the present moment in American politics.

However you approach it, the film provides a tremendous amount of fodder for any number of readings or understandings, making it endlessly watchable in a way I’m not sure I’ve encountered before.