The Noonday Witch (known as Polednice in its original Czech title) is a beautifully bright and quiet folk horror film. Directed by Jiří Sádek and written by Michal Samir (II), the story follows the lives of Eliska (Anna Geislerová) and her young daughter Anetka (Karolína Lipowská), who move to a remote countryside to start a new life. The two have a close relationship comprising of reading stories, sleeping in the same bed and cooking. All is well until a persistent Anetka discovers her mother has been lying about the whereabouts of her father, causing their relationship to deteriorate under the clutches of the Noonday Witch.
The Tale of Lady Midday
I have found the best way to get the most out of a folk horror film is learning about the folklore it is based on. “The Noon Witch” is one of those stories that answers questions you might ask after watching The Noonday Witch. The tale’s substance varies across cultures, but all share many commonalities. Below is an English summary of Karel Jaromír Erben’s poem, which you can read in English here.
“A mother is trying to prepare lunch, but her child is screaming for attention. She gives it some toys to play with, but nothing helps. So the mother decides to scare the child with a story about the Noon Witch who is said to come after children if they are naughty. At that moment, the church bell rings out, announcing that it is twelve o’clock – and there in the doorway stands the Noon Witch herself. She hobbles across the parlour, her arms reaching out for the child. The mother grabs her child and then faints in shock. The father comes home and finds the mother lying on the floor, their child in her arms. He manages to revive the mother, but the child is dead.”Source
The Noon Witch is an English title for the Slavic demon, whose other names include Polednice, Psezpolnica, Poludnitsa, Południca and Lady Midday. She appears in many forms (such as a young woman in white or an old weary woman) around noon during harvest time, the hottest days of the year, and possesses or kills those who dare enter the fields she resides. She most victimizes mothers and children, but the broad daylight and dreary heat in the Slavic landscapes makes even the most cautious person susceptible to her fate.
One of the most popular portrayals of the Noonday Witch is the symphonic ballad “Polendnice” by Czech composer Antonín Dvořá. You can listen to the song below.
“Don’t go anywhere. Not over the fence, not in the fields.”
Much like the song it is based on, The Noonday Witch is slow-burning and symphonic. Ben Corrigan’s score incorporated with the sunny Czech fields creates an illusion of comfort that contrasts with the emotional turmoil each character goes through. It all works so well. Though I didn’t find movie scary, the tension builds to such grandeur that at the end I felt uneasy and on the edge of my seat. Geislerová and Lipowská’s provide convincing, exquisite performances of a struggle mother and daughter.
There are other components of the “Noon Witch” tale that I wish were included; for instance, adding more emphasis on the deaths or making the Noon Witch a greater threat could have made everything more suspenseful and frightening. But that isn’t enough to undermine how rewarding of a watch The Noonday Witch is. It is a feast for the senses originating from fascinating lore worth knowing.(4 / 5)