'Heavenly Sin' explores the complexities of female power, agency, and sexuality in Huizenga's trademark retro aesthetic.
VICE has been on the Actually Huizenga train for years and years now, and she's never disappointed us with her delightfully weird films and music videos about hanging out with Easter bunnies or trying to seduce a sexy Jesus. Singer, filmmaker, and all-around rad artist, Huizenga channels her retro 80s aesthetic through her blend of dance and pop music and highly stylized music videos. Her aesthetic falls somewhere between a Lynchian David Bowie or DIY Lady Gaga. And while her videos incorporate kitschy graphics and elaborate costuming, she's constantly using ancient Greek and religious imagery in her work to explore darker themes.
In more recent years, Huizenga has delved into the world of filmmaking, bringing the low-budget feel from her music videos to the big screen. In her first film, Write a Book About It, she explored the nature of fame, aging, and love in a dystopian, nostalgia-obsessed future with a handful of vampire-like creatures called Warlords.
Now, back in Los Angeles after a European tour with her band, Huizenga is premiering her latest film, Heavenly Sin, tonight. In the movie, Huizenga plays a woman who is forced into marrying a creepy, possessive rich dude and has to live in a baby-pink room and watch porn all day. She eventually reaches her breaking point and struggles to find a small grasp of control in her life. The film explores the complexities of female power, agency, and sexuality in Huizenga's trademark acid-trip aesthetic. Trust me when I tell you, it's like nothing you've seen.
I met up with Huizenga at her home in Los Angeles, and after we lamented about David Bowie's passing, we chatted about her film and talked about what her future as a filmmaker might look like.
VICE: Do you actually go by Actually?
Actually Huizenga: Yeah, I do.
So how exactly would you describe yourself? I know you do a lot of different things, how do you sum it all up?
It's confusing for people. I constantly get asked, "Who are you? What do you do? I don't understand." It's too much. I think I'm going more toward being a filmmaker and directing and acting. Kind of being like a nicer, female version of Vincent Gallo or Mel Gibson. Then I'll do my music through the film, which gives it new life. I love performing and I love making music, but I want to use my music-making experience and put it into filmmaking. I feel like I can offer more with film.
There aren't enough women in the filmmaking world.
This is the crazy thing. Two of my favorite films when I was in high school—and my favorite films still—are Orlando and American Psycho. They're both from female directors, and I only just realized that recently. Now that I think about it, they both have this attention to detail in a way that's very feminine. There's a feminine spirit within them, without them being feminist films.
That makes me think about your aesthetic. I love your use of Myspace-y graphics and how all your the sets and costumes have a live Shakespeare vibe to them.
It started with having no budget.
But it's still intentional?
Exactly. Filmmaking for me started off as just being about having a fun, crazy time with my friends, but now I'm slowly getting bigger budgets.
How much did it cost to make Heavenly Sin?
We did this on a $5,000 budget. I edited the film myself with Final Cut 7, and it only took four days to shoot the film. We did the whole thing in just two weekends.
Where did the idea for Heavenly Sin come from?
It was inspired by this book, Holy Anorexia. Even though there's no anorexia in the film. Oh, and the Black Plague, too. I'm fascinated by the Black Plague. Humans do so many amazing things, but nature can wipe us out of existence easily. We act like we're the main part of existence, but we haven't been on Earth long enough. We're just a tiny part of this huge expanse.
How did the Black Plague factor into Heavenly Sin?
The Black Plague gave birth to the Renaissance, and I have this iconography in the film you can see linked to that time period, which I try to then link to current society and what could happen if we continue to place all of our faith in a system presented to us. Like Facebook, Instagram, the Bible, Scientology—in any religion, bad things can happen if you lose your identity to it.
Tell me about your character in the film.
She's studying for the convent, which is what Holy Anorexia is about.
She wants to become a nun?
Kind of. In medieval times, the only thing women could do aside from marrying was join a convent. If you did neither, you'd probably be a witch. Holy Anorexia is about these girls who became obsessed with God, and with the image of the Holy Ghost. They would hurt themselves and wouldn't eat. Then they'd see visions, supposedly of God, and people would visit them in awe. They were anorexic and were hurting themselves and became saints because of it. It's interesting, because this is how they found control.
My character, she ends up being forced into marriage, instead. In this marriage, everything is structured. Her husband owns her, pretty much. She tries to regain control by hurting herself with weapons and chains. That's how she ends up being happy. The pain from her husband is oppressive, but the pain she controls is different.
So it's about this kind of female dilemma?
Sort of, yeah. It's about owning yourself. Also, finding your inner god through violence.
What do you think your fascination with violence is?
I don't know. I think I'm figuring it out through all the films I make.
It's interesting because it's always seen as such a male thing to be fascinated by violence or to want to see it on the screen.
A lot of women like it, too.
So that's what Heavenly Sin is about? Control?
It's about having control, so you can lose control. I never put it that way before, but I like it.
What does the future have in store for you? Are you working on a new film?
Yes! This next one will also have vampires. The title right now is a working title, but its Gnostic Vampire. It's a Halloween-themed film, but for New Year's.
You can catch Heavenly Sin playing at Superchief Gallery in Downtown Los Angeles, Friday, October 14. Tickets are $10 at the door.