The Angelmakers [subtitled]

The Angelmakers

The Angelmakers is a half hour documentary that tells the story of a series of murders in a village in Hungary seventy years ago that were something of an open secret in the area, perpetrated by women, facilitated by a certain midwife who’d discovered how to secure arsenic from a type of poisonous flypaper.

The motives for the murders varied. Evidently when the midwife learned there was someone causing problems in a woman’s life, she discreetly provided the means to eliminate the source of the problems. At first it was battered women stuck in an arranged marriage in a society that pretty much treated them as their husband’s property. But eventually it expanded to include husbands who were annoying but not all that abusive, husbands who were making it more awkward for them to see their lovers, husbands who were difficult to care for due to injuries they’d sustained in World War I, newborn infants who were unwanted, handicapped children who’d proven too much of a burden, etc.

The style of the film is to tell the story in piecemeal fashion through interviews with residents of the village, some of whom were alive back then. That’s interesting in its way, seeing their expressions and hearing what they think of it all so many years later, but it’s not the most efficient way of telling a story. So there are pros and cons to the approach.

The deeper one gets into the film, the more grisly is becomes, like a horror (but not supernatural) episode of The Twilight Zone. At first it sounds like it’s a small number of murders of abusive husbands, then we realize it’s a considerably larger number of murders, mostly for much more dubious reasons. And then one of the interviewees notes that their village has gotten something of a bum rap, since far from being unique to that village, women all over that part of Hungary had figured out the flypaper trick for obtaining arsenic and had been murdering their husbands and others left and right for years.

So we’re talking about a pretty horrific fad. Then adding to the overall creepiness, the interviewees are mostly ambivalent if not approving of the murders, especially insofar as they associate them with rebellion against the cruelty toward women of males and of society in general.

The Angelmakers is a worthwhile—if a little unnerving—way to spend thirty minutes.

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