The Love Witch: Anna Biller in three quotes
Witches are the new feminists, or at least they are in The Love Witch, a delicious sexploitation pastiche by the American Anna Biller. Why not fall under its spell in these three quotes from the surprising horror melodrama that is exclusively being screened at Cinéma Nova during a retrospective of her short and feature-length films.
"Tampons aren’t gross. Women bleed and that is a beautiful thing"
“The Love Witch is a film about pathological narcissism and men’s fear of women. The main character Elaine is a witch. She is not ashamed of the blood that her body sheds every month. To her it is something magical and she plans to make a witch bottle with it. Witch bottles, which may be filled with menstrual blood, urine, nail clippings, or hair are an ancient tradition."
"Witches consider everything that comes from the human body to be magical because it contains the energy of the person in question. But apart from the fact that men understand but little about menstruation and are generally revolted by menstrual blood, they also tend to find female emotions distasteful. They are afraid of the love that women want to give them."
"They want to fantasise about the female body as something pure and clean that does not excrete blood, even though menstruation is part of the cycle of life. Witchcraft is often also associated with gender polarity, which implies that men and women are naturally opposed. These are things that I play with symbolically in The Love Witch.”
"I’m the love witch. I’m your ultimate fantasy"
“Elaine has discovered what men really want, but in a cynical way. Men’s magazines like Playboy and porn websites show what men really want and what arouses them. Male fantasy has nothing to do with women’s characters, their personalities, values, intelligence, or their contributions to the world. They revolve solely around the body and the idea that attractive women want nothing better than to be taken by a man."
"In other words: beauty as a source of pleasure. Elaine has learned how to use these things for her own power and pleasure. She stimulates this male fantasy and she does so with the mentality of a prostitute. I think of Elaine as a modern Medea. She kills out of love, which is a very female motive."
"Many films that feature female villains, virilise their evil. Female psychology is obliterated completely. But not in The Love Witch. Elaine has a broken heart and she wants revenge. That is the reason she has become a sexy witch. Witchcraft is the perfect instrument because it is a world in which people desperately revert to magic to get what they want.”
"We feel that a woman’s greatest power lies in her sexuality"
“Some people will say that it is not emancipatory to claim that a woman’s strongest weapon is her sexuality because it reduces her to an object of lust. This is a direct quote from the leader of the coven, the cult of which Elaine is a member. She took the ideas from Anton LaVey, a Satanist from San Francisco who wrote a number of handbooks in the 1960s, including The Satanic Witch."
"His discourse against women was the same as that of many coven leaders: wear high heels and make-up and be sexy and seductive. That is the way to get power. It was part of the sexual revolution, of manipulative gurus who wanted women to be sexy for them. Girls are still taught these lessons today."
"I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that it is still part of contemporary culture and androcentric society. Some girls can use these lessons to develop their own power, like the love witch. But for most women, it is not a genuine power or weapon, let alone being good for their self-image.”
> Anna Biller, 15/9 > 22/10 (15 > 17/9: in the presence of Anna Biller and producer/actor Jared Sanford), Cinéma Nova