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‘Wildling’ depicts growing up ‘in current society as a woman,’ just through the eyes of a Werewolf

Bel Powley talks us through the mysterious horror fantasy
Bel Powley in Wildling
[Image: IFC]

Despite being shot 2 years ago in upstate New York, Wildling is being released at the exact right time.

Because while it is a creature feature, Fritz Bohm’s directorial debut is rich in subtext about womanhood and the complications that come with that growth, both from within and from the male gaze.

“There is a real market for this movie right now,” Bel Powley recently told me over the phone. The British actress plays the lead character Anna in “Wildling,” who after being kidnapped as a young girl is given injections to keep her from puberty. Once she escapes she suddenly goes through this transformation, and then much, much more.

Powley admitted that it was the metaphor behind the transformation that originally attracted her to “Wildling,” especially as it was what Bohm wanted to explore, too.

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What first attracted you to “Wildling”?
I am always attracted to stuff that kind of subverts the norm. I felt like when I first read “Wildling” it kind of split the traditional horror movie concept on its head. It was a female central character, she is the beast, and we sympathize with the beast. Also, really for me the movie is representative of what it is like to grow up in current society as a woman. Once you go through puberty as women we are faceless. The obstacles in this film are representative of society and the obstacles that young women have to deal with. It was really the subtext that attracted me to it rather than the specifics of the role.

Was that a discussion you originally had with the director?
I read the script before I met Fritz, and that metaphor immediately struck me. So when I first spoke to him I wanted to make sure that was what he meant. If it was just a normal Werewolf movie then I wasn’t interested. When I spoke to him he just basically repeated everything I had thought back to me. We were completely on the same page with what the movie was about from the start.

There’s a particularly important line of, ‘You’re not sick, you’re a woman,’ which the film seems to play off of.
Totally. As young women as soon as you reach puberty you are not taught how to embrace your body and embrace what is happening to you. You are taught to hide it and control it. You are told how to look, how to have sex, who to have sex with. The metamorphosis of Anna into this beast represents what it is like being a young woman and having all this stuff happen and not knowing what to do with it.

With such easy access to so much information now it is only going to confuse matters, too.
It is very intimidating. Especially because grown men, the patriarchy if I am being general about it, just don’t know what to do with teenage girls. Society wants to ignore what is happening. You are kind of left out there in the cold. All of these people tell you how to act and how to be, but no-one really knows. It is a very complicated time. And that’s why I like to do movies about it.

I know that as a young actress you worked on children’s shows in England, was being exposed to the male gaze at such a young age what piqued your interest in this subject matter?
I think you can see in the projects that I choose that I deal with it by acting against it. So rather than choosing projects that force me to fit into the box that society wants me to be in as an actor I am constantly looking for projects that are the opposite of that.

“Wildling” is released in New York and on VOD on April 13.