Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered by the Love Witch [ADIFF 2017]
Director: Anna Biller Starring: Samantha Robinson, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Laura Waddell Running Time: 120 minutes
Anna Biller’s much anticipated dreamy technicolour feature came to Dublin as part of ADIFF 2017. The Love Witch is a true love letter to the pulp novels and films of the 1960s, full of beautiful women led astray to do bad things. Our witch, Elaine, is just a lovesick lady looking for a man to please. Sometimes to death.
There’s been a resurgence of occult love in recent years with fashion, a remake of The Craft on the horizon and the ever-present allure of goth goddesses such as Elvira, Vampira and Morticia Addams. The Love Witch fits in perfectly while also standing out by a mile. The film is sumptuous and bright, the candy pinks and rich reds playing off duck egg blues and delirious hazes of white and sepia. The kaleidoscope of colours is just as ridiculous and beguiling as the story itself. Elaine is heartbroken over her husband leaving her and moves to a new town to stay in her friend’s gothic lush apartment. We soon learn that Elaine’s melodramatic story of her grieving heart may not be as she tells it. She is a wonderful example of an unreliable narrator but, luckily, flashbacks are scattered to help us fill in the gaps. Nevertheless, we still feel for Elaine on her noble quest to find a man. The poor woman can’t seem to catch a break though!
The Love Witch has that wonderful sense of anachronism throughout, similar to It Follows, Deathproof and The Lords of Salem. We are never certain when it is set with the 60s cars and fashion, Renaissance fair themed coven and the out of time feel there is to everything when mixed together. But then somebody takes out a cell phone and throws the audience through another loop. This is a very clever device when used well. The farcical take used here matched the film’s mood perfectly and added to the slightly unsettling but alluring atmosphere.
If you are not a horror fan, worry not about the films referenced above. The Love Witch draws on horror but it is it’s very own brand of horror comedy. It’s akin to watching saucy old soap operas mixed with a very cheap documentary on witchcraft in modern America. Much of the acting is questionable, at best, but this seems a conscious decision. The coven members pull off their over the top presence of understanding the magic of universe… but still living in a small town. The townsfolk are fantastic. Witches are painted as just this everyday thing that you complain about not wanting in your town – they’re the reason bad things happen. It’s very much Salem style hatred in possibly modern times with just a hint of “they took our jerbs!”. The Love Witch is such a clever movie, using many devices like this to either make a point, make you laugh or make you squirm. This is a film unafraid to show you tampons and openly call out the men in the audience, knowing they will be audibly uncomfortable (and they were).
The film definitely has feminist themes throughout with all sides of women explored. Elaine believes in looking after her man, she enjoys cooking and the art of seduction. That doesn’t stop her from being clever, articulate and standing her ground when she needs to. Elaine’s devotion is questioned by her new friend Trish on many occasions, seeing her desire to be a wife as unfeminist. Barbara, Elaine’s sister witch, constantly reinforces the idea that men are delicate and need to be handled carefully. It was all done very much tongue in cheek and not to be taken too seriously. The strongest feminist aspect of this movie is that Anna Biller wrote, directed, produced and edited the feature on top of handling the music, art, sets and costumes. This unified sense of style and direction definitely helped the film’s overall flow and aesthetic. Also, major credit and admiration to Biller for that undertaking.
If The Love Witch screens in Dublin anytime you should get yourself a ticket. The splendour of the movie on the big screen is too beautiful to be missed.
(5 / 5)