A lust letter to The Love Witch: Why we are under the spell of Anna Biller’s pretty potion of cinematic magic

You’ll want to dig out your lava lamp, buy a deck of Thoth and simultaneously burn your bra when you’ve been seduced by The Love Witch’s wickedly lavish cinematic sorcery. *Spoilers*

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Being utterly obsessed with the 60’s and of course, witches, when I first heard of Anna Biller’s The Love Witch, a film packed to the brim with retro fashion and witch craft, I was immediately both enamored and intrigued. Luckily it didn’t disappoint.

It’s refreshing to see more horror with women at the helm, and it’s even more so when the film overtly challenges and comments on gender bias and universal sexism. The Love Witch covers all bases, proving to be more than just a pretty piece of cinema. It’s a stunning watch, yes, but it isn’t without depth – much like is protagonist.

Anna Biller has created the illusion of a genuine 60’s exploitation horror through her use of a 35mm, shying away from digital shooting, and her incredible eye for detail. She designed all the costumes and sets herself, and they are stunning. You needn’t look far on social media to see the vivid hues of the incredible Thoth-inspired apartment, complete with esoteric pentacle rug and her protagonist’s flamboyantly vintage wardrobe. While the aesthetics appear so authentic you’d be convinced the flick is set in 1969, there are traces of modernity than set it firmly in the present.

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The Technicolored palette and OTT acting are more than just homage to the psychedelic decade, you feel as though you are caught in a time warp between now and then. It’s a clever con too, seducing you into a false sense of security, a spell that lasts the whole movie.You are roped, and seemingly sent you straight back to the 60’s only to be confused when a BMW people carrier and the odd out of place contemporarily dressed extra appears. Elaine, The Love Witch herself, is spinning her web of retro shaped deception and even the viewer is under her influence.

Elaine is no doubt a product of patriarchy. She is both a victim and a villain, a love-obsessed narcissist who is never satisfied when she gets what she wants. It becomes clear that the system has brainwashed her from the start – she equates happiness with romance, believing that having a man and being attractive are the most important pursuits in life.

She is completely engulfed by the idea of a happy ending being marriage and life long love, but the men she encounters never seem to live up to her fantasy of what is “masculine”; and when they do, she doesn’t fit their fantasy of “femininity” either (not to mention the fact they appear to be even more narcissistic than her).

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Her magic isn’t just a glamour made for men, however, as she can’t seem to brush the chromatic crochet-knit wool from her own eyes.

Her upbringing seems to have shaped her outlook, putting importance on her image and how she appears to men. She puts on a false image, becoming a woman she thinks men will respond to and using magic to lure them like a siren. However, it is made clear to the viewer that she is not happy to keep up the pretense to maintain the relationships she dives into and her infatuation becomes irritation. Elaine is constantly left wondering why her flings don’t love her “for her”.

Elaine equally doesn’t appear to want her male victims dead, she naively concocts her spells with perhaps less knowledge than she lets on! She’s smart, sassy but dewy-eyed, indoctrinated by a world filled with too many hapless Disney princesses, searching for a love that doesn’t exist. You can’t help but see her situation as a commentary on how our society breeds narcissism, arrogance and yet an ignorance of knowledge – one that leads to death and destruction for both sexes.

There is no shying away from the feminism either, and even by today’s standards it is somewhat radical. With the backdrop of early 70’s social justice it isn’t out of place for the characters to be asserting their new found civil rights, and witchcraft, in the film, is seen as an outlet for this powerful female freedom.

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Elaine states she uses sex magic to create love magic, and while she obviously makes the age old clichéd mistake, often attributed to women, of being unable to separate sex from love, she isn’t completed blindsided. She doesn’t fall in love during sex, her victims do – a gender reversal as far as societies standards are concerned. She also is particularly promiscuous, yet never branded a slut (except by another female in a jealous, grief-striken rage).

According to Barbara, Elaine’s coven friend, women’s intuitions are seen as illnesses by society and witchcraft allows them to retain their power in a distinctly feminine way. While this is an empowering little speech, it is also problematic. Elaine is doing just this with her own magic, but she isn’t ultimately taking control of men and it’s not the most productive path to take – perhaps suggesting that the film’s commentary is advocating a more equal look at the sexes rather than the early 70’s feminist view of separate but equal?

The film poses many questions, but one thing is sure – witchcraft saved Elaine’s life (okay, it also resulted in the end of many men’s) and I inturpret it as a metaphor for feminism, attracting much controversy and misunderstanding. Women’s pathway to taking physical control back over their own lives has been a bit of a bumpy ride, dragging with it various opposing views, the damage and memories of the past (resulting in chips on shoulders), many misunderstandings and plenty of mistakes (not to mention collateral damage). But one things for sure, it’s a bloody great thing.

 

 

 

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How to reclaim control and help banish anxiety through your beauty ritual

Believe it or not you most likely incorporate ritual and alchemy into your daily life. Routines like brushing your teeth and hair, applying make-up, washing your face, showering… they are all rituals! Just putting a little more thought and care into these repeated actions can help you to harness intentions, thoughts and self esteem. So go ahead, turn those mundane rituals into something magical.

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There have been a few articles circulating regarding the theme of beauty as ritual lately and how these little acts of self love can have a lasting impression on your brain, even going as far as to help treat anxiety (mostly thanks to Teen Vogue’s fantastic article “Why Your Beauty Routine Can Help With Anxiety“).

From a more esoteric and spiritual point of view, focusing your mind and giving yourself those precious few minutes can change your whole day, whole world in fact! It’s so important to see your body and self as a temple, one to worship at the alter of. We are our own worst enemies and harshest critics, but if you can start to re-program your mind just a little it really can set you free.

So, inject a little magic (whether you subscribe to the craft or not!) and make your cosmetic rituals a pathway to inner confidence with my top tips on how to use beauty ritual to rein in your anxious tendencies…

(Note: While I can’t promise all of these will work for you, they have no doubt helped me, so it might be worth a try!)

 1. Have a mantra

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As a teen I suffered with anxiety (in fact, I still do) and affirmations have continued to help me combat doubts, insecurity, worries, fears and over-activity of my mind (I am also ADHD), even if it were temporary relief. Regaining control by repeating to yourself a mantra has a calming and determined effect on your brain – if you repeat something enough, you will believe it.

If this is a negative chant, you will hold a negative outlook and belief it as fact – so why not make it positive? This mantra can be repeated to yourself while looking at yourself in the mirror and carrying out your daily beauty routine, making it easily factored in to your day – it’s an easy way to incorporate magick and witchcraft into your life.

A mantra can be anything, from “I am beautiful and strong” to “I will get this job”, it can change, or your can keep it the same – but one things for sure, you MUST keep repeating it until you believe it. When you believe it, you will see it manifest in front of your very eyes, because you are beautiful and you are powerful!

 2. Practice self-love

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Along with the simple addition of a mantra, the ritual of beauty can help you harness control when you feel everything around you is falling apart. Through makeup products, hair styling and fashion you can influence how you and the world around you see and perceive you – it’s the oldest form of magic! Aesthetic alchemy is also incredibly easy in this day and age, with access to every hair colour imaginable and a rainbow spectrum of eyeshadow and longwear lipsticks at your finger tips there is nothing to stop you.

Everyone knows that having a nice hot bath full of aromatic essential oils is the best remedy for everything from over worked muscles to mental stresses but spritzing on your favourite perfume can also give you that feel good fix that triggers your olfactory and reminds your brain that you love you.

Staring at yourself needs to be something you relish, don’t shy away, and don’t focus on the negatives. Remember what you see isn’t an accurate reflection of what the world around you views, and your mirror image doesn’t have to define you… but it can, if you want it to – so use your cosmetics to control this!

Make sure you don’t cheap out on your make-up bag either – your skin is an organ and it laps up those chemicals, so don’t buy the cheapest foundation possible – get a good one! Spend a little extra, you deserve it. You can scrimp on your shoes, handbag, and everything else your body doesn’t absorb. You are a goddess and deserve nothing less than the best (make sure you do your research!).

 3. Be creative

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Do you have a colour that expresses you? Dye your hair that colour, or wear it on your eyes. While make-up and “superficial” cosmetics and fashion are seen as existing to please men, it really is quite the opposite. Yes, of course, many women do feel pressured to conform their image to patriarchal beauty standards, but that’s not its primary purpose, and not at all it’s original intention.

Use it as an art form, see it as paint and your face is a canvas – you aren’t adorning it to please or attract men, but rather to project a version of yourself that reflects your personality and expresses the real you. It’s not about the “natural look” because you are beautiful, naturally – use it as both protection and expression. Wear it like a war paint and anoint every stroke with your intentions. Creativity and art have been proven to help focus the mind, release endorphins and combat stress, so treating your makeup application as an art project isn’t just empowering but an exercise in calming and centering the mind!

If you want to take this one step further, why not create a sigil? Sigils are personal and spiritual symbols, one common witches sigil is the pentacle. The pentacle represents the five elements and is used as protection as well as in many rituals. Perhaps you could anoint yourself in foundation (before blending, of course!) with this symbol (while rehearsing your intent/mantra) visibly reflecting the intention that you are using this routine to protect your aura and inject confidence into your day.

Try and create your very own sigil and carve it with a needle into your favourite bold lipstick – your intent to “be bold” will be permanently bestowed upon this shade and every time you apply it, remember to re-iterate to yourself how you intend on feeling!

4. Face your fears

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Be brave and adventurous. I have received so many comments from people over my experimental hair colours and styles, extreme and bold makeup looks and statement fashion sense but none of it manifested through confidence – quite the opposite.

When you feel anxiety, you put up barriers, you create coping mechanisms and you grasp on to any amount of control you can. For me, that is my image. I was bullied for being a redhead as a child, suffered with terrible skin and various other irritating, physical reactions to puberty, so I would snatch back control by dying my hair bright red – if they are going to bully me for it I thought, I might as well actually be a beautiful shade of ginger!

By making a statement aesthetically I was controlling how others perceived me, creating a character and image of myself, despite suffering from crippling self-doubt on the inside. Allowing yourself to physically stand out also forces you to face your fears – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. So while you may feel like a kitten internally, your image says you’re a lion and forces you to be one!

Remember! Don’t rely on your makeup as a facade to hide behind, you are using it to stand out and as an extension of yourself, your personality and as a creative outlet. Don’t feel as though you NEED make-up to look pretty, only to complete your statement look, just like jewellery, clothing and hair styling – don’t fear being seen without it.