Film Review – The Witch of Kings Cross
WORDS: Caroline Russo www.hushhushbiz.com PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied
THE WITCH OF KINGS CROSS
75-minute documentary film
Written and Directed by Sonia Bible
Released worldwide on Amazon, iTunes, Vimeo and GooglePlay
Premieres 9th February 2021
In selected cinemas from 11th February 2021
Cast KATE ELIZABETH LAXTON
DAMIEN GRIMA – PAN
KARLEE MISIPEKA – LILITH
LUKAS ROSE – LUCIFER
In 1950s Sydney, bohemian artist Rosaleen Norton hits the headlines with allegations of satanic rituals, obscene art and sex orgies. She worships the God Pan, and practices trances and sex magic, inspired by the work of Aleister Crowley. Eventually, the relentless scandals lead to the downfall of her high society lover, Sir Eugene Goossens. Told ‘in her own words’, the film weaves stylized drama and erotic dancers with never-before-seen artworks, diaries and scrapbooks. The Witch of Kings Cross is the fascinating portrait of a fearless woman outlaw railing against fearful conservative forces and an insight into the work of an uncelebrated genius.
In today’s new wave of feminism, Rosaleen’s story has never been more pertinent and one that needs to be seen.
Writer-director and Co-Producer Sonia Bible speaks on that when she discovered Rosaleen Norton’s story was when I was making my first film, ‘Recipe For Murder’, about women who poisoned their husbands with rat poison in Sydney in the 1950s. I was researching tabloid newspapers from the 1950s, and articles about Rosaleen kept popping up. I was immediately struck by the bravery and sheer determination of Rosaleen Norton. She was a wild, creative woman, decades ahead of her time. She never gave up her artistic pursuits, no matter how hard the authorities made it. I found that inspiring.
In 2013, our initial research uncovered people who knew Rosaleen Norton personally and many newspaper articles, but there was no official collection of Norton’s artworks anywhere. Some of the key interviewees were unwell or elderly, so I felt an urgency to start filming, and several of the people have since passed away. My husband Edward Gill was the cinematographer, and he describes himself as ‘long suffering’! In 2015, when I unearthed two major private collections of art, scrapbooks, diaries and notebooks, it was the point of no return.
At the beginning, I wasn’t a fan of her art; I was more interested in the story of the rebellious woman, the media’s portrayal of Rosaleen, and society’s fear around what she represented. Over time, I grew to love the art. The more I learned about the symbolism and philosophy behind the art, the more I liked and respected the work. I did a lot of background research into Greek and Pagan mythology, the teachings of The Kabbalah and Aleister Crowley. Although, for me, it was the philosophies of Carl Jung that really helped my understanding.
To be faithful to the spirit of Rosaleen Norton, I was compelled to take risks with the creative direction of the film. I wanted to visualize her inner world and spiritual beliefs and felt strongly that the film should be erotic because it was actually Norton’s sexuality that the authorities found so threatening. So, casting dancers as Pan, Lilith and Lucifer from Norton’s work seemed like an exciting idea. Gods and goddesses with sexy, writhing bodies, performing on an underground bohemian stage, represent Norton’s trances and experiences in sex magic.
The film is a moving exhibition of the rare and extraordinary art and artefacts that we have unearthed and documented over the years. For some, I hope it will be a window into the world of an uncelebrated genius. Forty years after her death, it’s time to unleash Rosaleen Norton’s work into the world.
This is one film that dives into such an intense story but is beautifully produced by all the creative artists and music combined. Sonia has honoured Norton life and may her work be found on the discovery of such a unique woman that was a victim of her expression and her amazing artistic talent.