She Will, the feature debut for British filmmaker Charlotte Colbert, premiered during last year's Locarno Film Festival, where it won the Golden Leopard prize for Best First Feature. Perhaps even more meaningful was the encounter she had with internationally renowned horror auteur Dario Argento, who was attending the festival in support of his leading role in Gaspar Noé's Vortex. The directors hit it off, and now She Will opens with "Dario Argento Presents," written in the same font as his 1977 cult classic, Suspiria.
"He was excited about the film," Colbert tells A.frame, "and decided to come on board and help give it a push, which was amazing and dreamy. Just one of those miraculous things, really!"
She Will follows former film star Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) as she retreats to the Scottish countryside with a caregiver (Kota Eberhardt) to recuperate following a double mastectomy. Upon arrival, Veronica learns that the lodgings were built where witches were once burned, and the land is forever soiled with their ashes. As strange dreams overtake her, she begins to tap into her own inner power to deal with a harrowing incident in her past involving a predatory industry bigwig (Malcolm McDowell).
Casting Krige, an actress best known for her performances in another supernatural horror film — 1981's Ghost Story — proved to be a mutually beneficial decision for their creative process. As Colbert recalls, "She says we were connected by an umbilical cord. I was so grateful to her to take the risk of going to gallivant in the Scottish Highlands with me and my project. She's such a magic human as well."
Despite the long history of body horror within the genre, the subject of a mastectomy had gone largely unexplored until now. Colbert, who also co-wrote the film with Kitty Percy, says, "I have a dear friend who had a double mastectomy. She's an art curator, and she always says, 'I don't understand why there's no representation.' It's quite a crazy thing."
"With Veronica, what occurred to her in her childhood has morphed into this. She's held it on for so long, and it's come out in this in this illness in some ways," she explains. "The whole surgery and transformation really starts her on a journey to confronting her past. I was really inspired by the most amazing photoshoot from The New York Times" — a 1993 issue featuring the work of artist and activist Joanne Motichka — "these women with mastectomies but presented as Amazonian goddesses. Absolutely gorgeous."
Colbert's own experience as a photograph and multi-media artist played a significant role in the process of crafting She Will, which continues an exploration of themes and imagery that began germinating in her other work. "I think there's something so fascinating about fairy tales and the way they code hidden secrets and lessons," she says.
"Wounds and scars and body image, and the history of witchcraft, the land, and nature," Colbert lists off. "I'm very interested in that kind of psychological DNA we carry within us and the stories we're haunted by, whether they be our own or those of our ancestors somehow, and how those two can connect."