Anna Biller’s second feature, The Love Witch is a film I have been eager to watch for a while now. Since its release in 2016, The Love Witch has gained a cult following and become a firm favourite of modern horror thanks to its modern interpretation of 60s horror. The film follows witch, Elaine Parks (Samantha Robinson) who moves to a small town after suffering a breakdown due to the death of her ex-husband. The films acts as an ode to 1960s horror films as well as a technicolour fantasy and is definitely a passion project for Biller who serves as director, writer, producer, editor and composer. If that alone doesn’t impress then the final result is sure to please. Much like the film’s protagonist, The Love Witch is impossible to put into a box. It stands on its own two feet as a brilliant feminist piece that subverts the rules in the filmmaking book to create one of the most original films this century.
Biller’s vision is fully realised thanks to her impeccable direction and writing. The choice to make the actors perform in a presentational style plays in perfectly with the nostalgic side of the film. Also, Biller’s genius use of natural colouring to give the film a technicolour aesthetic is innovative and unique. The dedication Biller put into this film is phenomenal and she is definitely a filmmaker to watch. Her script is among the best original scripts of this century hands down and I am shocked it wasn’t up for some major awards. It’s a shame that this film didn’t receive a wide release because it’s a wonderful representation of women in film. This is very much Biller’s film and its empowering to see a woman take the helm at so many roles in the filmmaking process.
To say Samantha Robinson is hypnotic as Elaine is an understatement. From the first shot when we see Elaine driving to her new home we hear her story in the voice over, it’s clear that the weight of the film lies on Robinson’s shoulders and she carries with ease. Elaine is a tragic character, desperate to find love and will do anything to get it but faces drastic consequences. To write her off as a weak character would be a huge mistake as there is a strength to Elaine that becomes evident as the film unfolds. Unafraid and aware of her sexuality, Elaine tries to find her place in a patriarchal world that has never cared for her. This is a fantastic breakout role for Robinson and proves that she has a promising career as a leading actress. Even when she isn’t onscreen, her presence can be felt because she is so affectice in her role. As Elaine begins to succeed in her quest for love, the mask begins to slip as her self-absorbed nature and lack of empathy leads to her downfall. It soon emerges that maybe Elaine isn’t as naive as we are led to believe. This is thanks to the presentational acting which Robinson pulls off flawlessly.
Biller’s score is inspired by Medieval and Renaissance music injected with synthesised sounds to give it a modern feel. Much like the rest of the film, the score is unpredictable and deeply original. There are so many standout pieces throughout the film but the track playing when Elaine and interior designer, Trish go for tea is a particular highlight. The music numbers really enhance the film and create blur in genres as it flits from horror to musical to comedy in the score alone. There are also pieces that feature childlike singing which I think exemplifies the naivety of the film’s characters and is played at pivotal moments and the transition of naivety to realisation. I really hope that Biller continues to score her films because she perfectly encapsulates the originality of her film.
Overall, The Love Witch is one of the most original films I have seen in a while. Its unique take on nostalgia mixed with the strong female gaze makes it a strong win in my book. Biller’s talent as a filmmaker and visionary is evident from the opening shot and it’s clear that she is a force to be reckoned with. This has quickly become a firm favourite of mine and I can see myself rewatching this many times as it’s a film rich in subtext. I am really looking forward to seeing her next film Bluebeard.
What do you think of The Love Witch? Let me know in the comments below!