A modern-day witch uses spells and magic to get men to fall in love with her, in a tribute to 1960s pulp novels and Technicolor melodramas.
For the second year running, a film with witch in the title comes along with widespread critical acclaim, and I just didn’t get it (see ‘The Witch’). In this case, that film is ‘The Love Witch’, the story of a young witch, Elaine (Samantha Robinson), searching for a new lover after the death of her previous husband. This tragedy happens before the film begins, when we join up with Elaine as she drives into a new town to start a new life, encountering various potential suitors along the way who all come under her spell. The film takes place in an unusual fantastical setting that blends an old style 60s village and inhabitants with many of the trappings of modern life, and it makes for a curious contrast.
The film intersperses conversations about feminism with sequences of ritualistic incantations with the other wiccans in the town (the presence of the witches is known by the other townsfolk) and various surrealistic touches as Elaine seduces the local men with a combination of potions and her natural charms. The actress playing Elaine (Samantha Robinson) delivers a very mannered performance where it’s always clear she’s ‘acting’, and I thought her performance was very charismatic, even though I didn’t enjoy the film surrounding her. The cinematography is painted in sickly, bright luminous colours, and from an art design perspective, it’s certainly something different to look at, but I thought the unengaging narrative didn’t match the craft that went into the production. It all plays out stylistically like a pastiche of older horror films and technicolor melodramas, but I never felt it was clear whether it was meant as a homage, to mock, or somewhere in between. Whatever the case, I thought it was ridiculously overplayed and off putting.
I can’t say I’m familiar with a huge amount of horror cinema from that era, but I could never get on board with ‘The Love Witch’. It’s clearly been received well by many others, so it’s perhaps more a case of me not getting the film than anything else, but I was disappointed and ultimately thought this was an overly stylised piece of well made trash.
Directed By: Anna Biller
Starring: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Jared Sanford, Robert Seeley, Jennifer Ingram, Clive Ashborn, Stephen Wozniak and Elle Evans