The Blair Witch Project came out in 1999. It affected me heavily then, when I was nine years old, and it still does now. I know that because I just watched it again in glorious high definition. I hear a lot of shit talked about TBWP, and I have to say that I’ve come out in defense of the film in most, if not all, instances where it’s come up. Like I said, I have a strong affective reaction to it, and I don’t really know why. I do know why it does things for me, however, and I’m going to try to lay that out here.
The film is all about what impossible for the viewer to see. The running scene, one of the few pieces of action in the whole film, has Heather Donahue screaming “What the fuck is that?” while pointing the camera off to the left. However, we see nothing–there’s just a mass of empty space, a blackness cut through by white streaks of trees. The ending of the film is similar, with the supernatural horror never quite being revealed, and you really only understand how terrible the ending is if you were paying attention the statements from the beginning. In any case, the field of view becomes important here, and maybe there’s a criticism embedded here. Certainly the whole thing is based on hubris, and on the idea of being able to see a path clearly where there is no path, which is a fundamental aspect of documentary filmmaking. Taking pieces of information, crafting a narrative from them, and then moving from there making the point that you want to.
So if the literal Blair Witch is something that takes advantage of hubris, eats you up for your mistakes, what does that mean for us as the viewer? Is it better to take it as a literal being or read the entire film as a metaphor for something bigger? I’m afraid of taking it too far in either direction, but I like the idea that the film can be taken so many ways. I like that it operates on several levels, and that you don’t have to push it too hard–the boundaries don’t break if you harp on it.
So that’s all I’m going to say about it.