Jungian Archetypes, Female Psyche: The Magical Alchemy of Love Witch

'In tongue-in-cheek way, what I'm trying to say is men are sissies when it comes to emotions.'

Luna Carmoon
April 26, 2017
Director, writer, production and costume designer and up until now star of her films - an overall renaissance woman Anna Biller has over the years crafted world of her own. Subversively feminist and filled with colour, her films juxtapose female and male worlds and put magnifying glass over cliches we live with(in). Ahead of UK launch of her latest film The Love Witch, a Technicolour ode to 60s paperbacks and occult horror, starring Samantha Robinson, we caught up with Anna and dug deep into the influences and theories of her craft.

GIF: Throughout history, powerful or confident women are outcast and ridiculed as if they are witches. Whilst growing up, did you ever experience a moment when someone made you feel like a complete alien for being so true to yourself and your vision? what words of encouragement would you give to other girls?

AB: Throughout my entire life, I’ve felt like a freak for being a girl. There are so many situations in which you’re told, implicitly or explicitly, that being a girl is “wrong.” With THE LOVE WITCH I’m getting more respect, I’m still not often given credit for having my own ideas; I’m told that I’m copying the work of others, when actually I spend a lot of time developing my ideas. I know it sounds like a cliché, but the advice I’d give is: always be true to yourself, never give up and never be made to feel that being a woman is shameful or inferior, and speak up if someone violates your space or your person.

GIF: Female psyche is at the core of the film. Alfred Hitchcock’s films also use Jungian archetypes and explore anima/animus traits. Would you say in “The Love Witch” that it was by coincidence when preparing that you noticed that what you visually wanted to portray subconsciously coincided with Hitchcock's work and beautiful style, or did his psychological concepts inspire some of your research?

I’ve been studying Hitchcock’s films for years, not only for their psychology and the mastery of their scripts, but also for their cinematic techniques. I studied MARNIE and THE BIRDS in particular for their rich psychological implications. I’ve also studied a lot of psychology on my own, and have been interested in Jung’s concepts of the animus and anima for awhile. These animus figures are depicted in a painting Elaine makes, in which men’s heads emerge from a magical goblet, representing Elaine’s attempt to control the animus figures in her life.

GIF: Elaine is very much the embodiment of the anima present in the female; she is hysterical and has a destructive nature as well as being manipulative, bewitching strange men to come at her beck and call. Were your intentions to kind of make fun of the stereotypical gender roles and flip them on their heads?

Definitely, that was part of what I was trying to do! I also wanted to depict men more realistically than how they’re usually portrayed in movies; that is. I’m trying to say that men are sissies when it comes to emotions, so if they are made to feel emotions as powerful as the ones women feel, it can kill them. This is tongue-and-cheek of course, but I feel there is some truth to it. Elaine as an anima figure is also my attempt to make a double character out of her: on the one hand, a character seen from the inside for women to identify with, on the other hand, a character seen form the outside for men to fear and fantasise about.

GIF: Samantha Robinson, the picture’s leading witch, has an old soul essence about her. as if Edwige Fenech and Sonia Petrovna had magically morphed into one exquisite being. Did you have a sudden realisation that she was the only person who could play her role?

I didn’t know right at first that Samantha was perfect for the role. I saw her act at two auditions (she was especially good in her dance audition). I started to observe her face, its micro- expressions, and nuances, and really listening to her voice and to the intelligence and unusually rich timbre of it. I became entranced by her enormous eyes, the devastating and even cinematic sharpness of her tone at times. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks how incredible she would be for the role. I thought to myself, “There’s my Love Witch!”

GIF: The film is ever so specific all of which you fabricated yourself. Your work envisions a perfect alchemy of ‘60s occult, B-movies meshing with tantalising Technicolour films of the time, and also aspects from néo-noir classics, femme fatale movies and Italian Horror movies of that era. You costumed the whole entirety of the film. You mentioned that your mother designed clothes. Did she inspire any of the costumes or influence any of your work?

My mother is a great inspiration to me as an icon of glamour, strength, and beauty, and I think above she encouraged me by example that it’s okay to just create your own world. And my grandmother also created period costumes with complete authenticity. But in terms of the actual costumes, I think they were more inspired by movies and fashion magazines, and by the attempt to make Elaine into a cohesive character.

GIF: Were there any particular outfits or sets you wished to replicate on screen from various movies or stars of that time?

I didn’t replicate any outfits or sets from any movies in particular for this film. A lot of the inspiration for the sets came from the Thoth Tarot deck, just in terms of the colour schemes, and I took my inspiration for the renaissance costumes from costume books. In terms of stars, I was inspired by the eye makeup of ‘60s glamour icons such as Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale.

GiF is screening 'The Love Witch' in Rio cinema's late screenings on Friday 10th & Saturday 11th March, 11.30pm.