This ain’t no Kvium, this ain’t no Lemmerz. This ain’t no fooling around.
By Andréa Ferrol
Which artwork is more likely to be remembered: Naturkreds (1992) by Michael Kvium, The Undead (2002-2003) by Christian Lemmerz, or Richard Quine’s Bell, Book and Candle (1958)?
What these artworks have in common is that they all dabble with themes of metaphysical witchery as well as the role of art and the artist in society. The first one is an oil painting, the second is a marble sculpture, both courtesy of two celebrated Danish artists, while the third one is a a spellbinding romantic comedy directed by Richard Quine and based on John Van Druten’s Broadway hit. A beautiful technicolor gem, it stars Kim Novak and James Stewart, teaming up for the second time during the year that also brought us Hitchcock’s Vertigo, with cinematographer James Wong Howe giving us a glamorous vision of Manhattan, enhanced by George Duning’s sophisticated score.
In the movie, Greenwich Village witch Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak), a free spirit with a penchant for going barefoot, has been unlucky in love and restless in life. She admires from afar her neighbor, publisher Shep Henderson (James Stewart), who one day walks into her gallery of African art to use the telephone, after Gillian's aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) put a spell on his phone. When she learns he is about to marry an old college enemy of hers, Merle Kittridge (Janice Rule), Gillian takes revenge by casting a love spell on Shep, and she eventually falls for him herself. She must make a choice, as witches who fall in love lose their supernatural powers. When she decides to love Shep, Gillian's cat and familiar, Pyewacket, becomes agitated and leaves.
Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs), the author of the best-selling book Magic in Mexico, arrives in Shep's office (thanks to a little magic) after Gillian discovers Shep's interest in meeting him. Redlitch is researching a book on witches in New York, and he acquires an "inside" collaborator when Gillian's warlock brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon) volunteers his services in exchange for a portion of the proceeds.
Gillian uses her magic to make Shep lose interest in Nicky and Redlitch's book, and then confesses her identity as a witch to Shep. Shep becomes angry, believing she enchanted him just to spite Merle, and the two quarrel. Gillian threatens to cast various spells on Merle, such as making her fall in love with the first man who walks into her apartment, but she finds that she has lost her powers because of her love for Shep. Meanwhile, Shep finds he literally cannot leave Gillian, because of the spell. To escape, he turns to another witch, Bianca De Pass (Hermione Gingold), who breaks the spell. Shep confronts Gillian and leaves her heartbroken. He then tries unsuccessfully to explain to Merle that Gillian is a witch. Months later, Shep returns and discovers Gillian has lost her magic powers because of her love for him. When he realizes her love is true, the two reconcile.
As to the initial question of which artwork is more likely to be remembered, time - and perhaps a little witching trickery - will tell.