Cult horror film The Love Witch is a startling and powerful portrayal of femininity – here director Anna Biller talks about what influenced her latest creation
Anna Biller, director of upcoming feminist horror The Love Witch, is a striking and committed auteur. Unsatisfied with merely writing, directing and producing her latest feature – a glossy pastiche of the Technicolour thrillers of the 60s that she adores – Biller also acted as editor, costume and set designer and composer. Biller says that the process was personal fetishism.
“I have hundreds of these little satisfying moments when making a film: finding the right couch here, the right goblet there, the right trim for a costume, the right melody or arrangement for a song. The final product is just one more revelation.”
Watching The Love Witch is like walking around inside Biller’s head, all knee high boots, Victoriana furnishings and a lot of flesh.
“Her vision permeates every aspect of the film,” says Anna Bogutskaya of The Final Girls, a female-focused horror collective who are taking the film on tour this February and March. “Along with Alice Lowe’s Prevenge and Julia Ducournau’s upcoming Raw, The Love Witch signals a very fertile moment for exploring the intersections of genre and gender.”
A journey of sexual empowerment coming with deadly costs, The Love Witch also acts as a love letter to everything Biller holds dear, from Gene Tierney to The Wicker Man to tarot reading. She tells Dazed about the key influences that shaped her film.
“I’m interested in charm and glamour, which no one thinks about anymore. Movies to me are a way of dreaming or transforming reality into a spell – turning the everyday into aestheticised cinema. Like the directors of the past, I aim to tell complex, psychologically realistic stories that are also accessible using the tools at my disposal – lighting, costumes, colours, writing. I take an almost obsessive amount of care in every detail, something that in the early 60s would have seemed normal. In a Hitchcock film for example, every visual and narrative choice is deliberate and meaningful.”
“I read dozens of books about witchcraft, and really got into the symbolic and visual world of a witch’s objects and lore. I went to rituals and classes, made spells and my own altar objects, and watched witchcraft films by Kenneth Anger, Alex and Maxine Sanders, and The Wicker Man. I studied tarot decks for colour, design, and costume ideas.”
“I take an almost obsessive amount of care in every detail, something that in the early 60s would have seemed normal” – Anna Biller
QUENTIN TARANTINO’S GO-TO COMPOSER
“I looked to Ennio Morricone for most of the film’s soundtrack; his eclectic combination of jazz, pop and classical music styles create a sublime and mystical world of sounds and moods that were perfect for the world of the witch. I was able to use my own rudimentary music skills to write part of the soundtrack and the theme song.”
BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL
“I’m influenced by a lot of experimental cinema and theatre, from Maeterlinck and Brecht to Bresson, Bergman, Fassbinder, and Akerman. On the one hand I want to make something classical like Hitchcock, on the other I want to deconstruct it, break the fourth wall, make the audience understand they’re watching something polemical, constructed. So when the story halts for a lecture on how women need to please men, or a wig that is part of the main character’s artificial construction comes off, I am drawing more from these types of influences.”
COLD, CLASSIC LEADING WOMEN
“When I wrote Elaine I knew that she would be a femme fatale, but I wasn’t sure which type of actress I wanted to portray her. I had fantasies of femmes fatales in film noir, from Gene Tierney to Liz Taylor to Jean Simmons. Most of the women I saw audition were playing the sex kitten in a very overt way, but Samantha Robinson interested me the most because she played it so cold and blasé.
I was literally in tears when we met privately after the audition and I saw how truly intelligent and powerful she was, as well as human and vulnerable. She had that remote power of the classic movie actresses, without even trying. I knew at that moment that my movie was going to be a success if she was the lead.”
The Final Girls’ tour of The Love Witch begins from 23rd February, find out more here