I had the privilege of seeing The Love Witch about a month or so ago at Cinefamily in LA, and I thought I would share a few musings about it. Going into the film, I knew that the director, Anna Biller, shot the movie on 35 mm film and took almost ten years to produce it (she made most of the props, sets and costumes herself). From the trailer, I gleaned that it would be a sort of humorous, exaggerated film about a witch obsessed with love. But since watching the film, I have found myself thinking more about Biller’s visual style. I’ve really enjoyed looking more closely at her influences and inspirations. Luckily, I stumbled upon this article on Criterion, where she discusses her love for technicolor and old filmmaking techniques.
Anna Biller cites Jacques Demy’s 1970 film Peau d’Âne as the inspiration for her visual style. She was drawn to the mixture of fantasy and eerie darkness in the film, something that certainly translated to The Love Witch. The Love Witch is often unsettling, but there is always a wonderful sense of humor, playfulness, and eagerness that brings it back into the sphere of believability. I love her use of bright, fantastical color because it makes her work both dated and timeless. It harkens back to a time in early color filmmaking when everything was hyper-saturated to celebrate the new advance in cinematography. So much of witch Elaine’s world is bright and striking, which only enhances how dark the moments of horror are. But because of the borrowed styles from film history, as well as fashion and art history, the film becomes a mish-mash of visuals that is hard to put your finger on. This makes it all the more dreamy. Perhaps more important, though, than the historical placement of her visual style, is her insistence on the feminine gaze. The props and costumes are so lush, exquisite, and fully-realized. She says:
I’m not really interested in male fantasy in film. I am interested in comprehensive stories that include women…and especially female fantasy.
Her films do take on a decidedly traditional feminine look, and even if it doesn’t always mean something grand, the fact that Biller’s films are largely created for women to view and fantasize about is exciting, although of course it is not for everyone.
The Love Witch isn’t always particularly relatable, or necessarily politically correct, but it’s an amazing example of a director’s dream world coming to fruition. I drew inspiration from it for this post, combining some of the things I am currently fantasizing about, including the stunning fan art poster by Hogan McLaughlin, a dreamy waistcoat from SomniaRomantica, Dior’s tarot clutches, and Valfre’s spellbook phone case. More sources are at my Pinterest.