What do a black cat, a monkey’s paw, and graveyard dirt have in common?
These three elements are basics in voodoo rituals. This religion from West Africa is shrouded in legends and myths, one of the main being how they were said to use supernatural powers to talks to the spirits, bring back the dead, and influence other people’s decisions and feelings.
It's obvious how voodoo became one of the most feared dark practices of New Orleans in the eighteenth century. Members of the Haitian population would remain hidden for fear of lynchings by people who claimed to be victims of a hex. It wasn’t long before this practice became another aspect of African American culture that was constantly under attack. Artists such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins took up this belief as an esthetic element to shock audiences. The Blues singer would resort to chilling screams and wear extravagant outfits to create this magical atmosphere.
All this morbid fascination towards the occult has resulted in many other artists choosing to use its mysticism as a narrative device. Anna Biller has done this through her film The Love Witch, which also borrows pieces from the esthetic of the sixties and other cult films.
This is not just another horror film, full of blood and gore as the main event; instead it uses the fascination with the supernatural as the hook. Because once we start watching the movie, we’ll see that sexual empowerment is the focus of the piece.
Through plenty of research, Biller realized how the world of witchcraft is one full of passion and eroticism. She also noticed this practice’s ties to female self-acceptance, to the point that she could not resist capturing it on camera.
Through seduction and plenty of spells, the protagonist, Elaine, makes all men fall madly in love with her. She becomes a new kind of cold yet sensual femme fatale, using her ancient knowledge to get anyone do her bidding. Nobody is as perfect for this role as Samantha Robinson, who is full of charm and able to embody the strong female characters of classic film.
To keep her idea from getting muddled or tainted, Biller was involved in every stage of the project. The filmmaker proved her commitment to the work by sticking to the premise that something done with this much care could never be bad. Now it’s up to audiences to admire the results of all the love placed in this film.
Discover the painting of Goya about the Spanish Witch trials.
Go on an acid trip into a commune in the Hollywood Hills.
Translated by María Suárez