By Dave B.
The Love Witch (2016, currently on Amazon Prime) tells the story of Elaine, a young woman who uses spells to make men fall in love with her, but whose loving is so powerful that the men go insane and then die. To be honest with you I don’t know what to make of The Love Witch. Despite it’s overtones of female empowerment, it’s hard to say that it’s overtly feminist, considering the negative light in which it portrays many of its female characters. At times it has the feel of a parody of 1960s and 70s exploitation flicks, but at other times, it seems to be taking itself too seriously for that. If I were forced to put it into a box, I suppose I would call it an exaggerated examination of male-female relationships through the lens of madness, magic, and narcissism.
Visually, The Love Witch is a treat. With or without the abundant nudity, the film manages to infuse every scene with vibrant colors, compelling scenery, and interesting activities and interactions. For someone like myself who can be easily distracted, it was definitely a plus to have a slower paced movie that was fun to look at, especially when that movie is 120 minutes long. Elaine, played capably by Samantha Robinson, is an interesting character. Her insanity and self-absorption cause her to idealize the concept of love in unhealthy and unrealistic ways, which leads her to justify any actions in pursuit of love, regardless of the horrific consequences. A character like Elaine could have easily come off as two-dimensional, but I found it fairly easily to empathize with her (to an extent), because of the complexity with which she is written.
The problem with The Love Witch is its tone. Or more precisely, its lack of a consistent tone. At no point in this movie did I know what the director intended me to think or feel about anything that happened. In and of itself, that’s fine. I wouldn’t write reviews if I were incapable of forming my own opinions. But I think that writer/director Anna Biller ended up creating product far beyond my comprehension. Is The Love Witch a parody or an homage? A feminist critique of male-female relationship dynamics or a new viewpoint on standard serial killer movies with an extremely creative design? All of the above? None of them? I have no clue.
What I’m certain of is that I found watching The Love Witch to be an interesting experience. Note that I intentionally don’t say a “good” experience. To me, it was like having a dessert that doesn’t contain chocolate: new experiences can be great, but I know what I like and this isn’t necessarily it, even if it’s something I might be willing to try again. That said, I do recommend The Love Witch. It’s certainly an acquired taste, but the uniqueness of the film, and its impressive visuals, probably make it worth the time of more adventurous viewers.