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Good Witch, Bad Witch: Tales of Oz & More in Ti West’s “Pearl”

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rutgers chapter.

[Fair warning for spoilers— reader, beware!]

In one of the season’s most anticipated films, A24’s Pearl starring Mia Goth brings thrill and horror to a technicolor, Old Hollywood-inspired feature. With chilling performances, vibrant cinematography, and a plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat, Pearl is rife with details that film fanatics and casual watchers alike will sit with for hours after the theater lights come back on. One curiously notable thread within this film, directed by Ti West, is its multiple similarities and nods to a timeless Hollywood classic, The Wizard of Oz.

The film begins with an opening akin to its companion film, (to which Pearl is a prequel), with the frame opening wider and wider into a brightly colored scene depicting the iconic farm where this story takes place. Styled this way, it is hard not to see Pearl’s story being passed the baton to set the scene right after Dorothy opens up her front door into the vibrant world of Oz. Just as in Pearl, the first scene that brings Dorothy into Oz begins with the small view peeking through her door of the new land she’s entered. The camera then follows a path through the door as the frame takes up more and more space until it covers the screen left-to-right.

As we are taken further into Pearl, more and more similarities to the 1939 film begin to surface, which were noted quickly by fans of the movie on Twitter. Shared by both Garland and Goth are the iconic ribbon-tied hairdos complete with blue overall-esque outfits. Not only this, but we also see Pearl’s scarecrow embracing a striking similarity in dress to the famous scarecrow Dorothy meets along her journey.

But in Pearl’s world, there’s much less to feel safe with than the wonderful Glinda and magic red slippers—and much more to fear than lions, tigers, and bears! Throughout the film, we are presented with multiple scenes of Pearl heading in and out of town on her bike. Most notably are the bike scenes that quickly follow violent depictions of Pearl killing her mother and father. Riding back and forth across the screen, she fashions herself with a top hat snagged off the earlier scarecrow. These elements work effortlessly together to produce an image that parallels Miss Gulch with her own bike and similar-looking hat. Even further, the prolonged scenes of Pearl’s bike riding feel eerily similar to the shots of Miss Gulch “riding” her bike past the window of Dorothy’s house when flying through the tornado. As Dorothy watches, her unfriendly neighbor transforms into the Wicked Witch of the West, swapping bike for broom. Though no flying brooms are present in this 2022 film, an increasingly murderous Pearl biking against the backdrop of stormy and thundersome weather seems to echo the sentiments of a Wicked Witch on the rise.

Outside of Oz, however, Pearl explores themes of unrealized dreams, love and family, and even the challenges of isolation and a global pandemic, as the film is set amidst the Spanish Flu of the early 1900s. With something sure to entice viewers across the board, Pearl succeeds in being just as provocative as it is frightful in all the right ways!

Click here to read more from critics on the making of Pearl, the magical world of Oz, and more.

Olivia Young

Rutgers '23

Olivia Young is a senior studying English Literature at Rutgers University. Aiming to become a professor in the field after many a year of schooling, she hopes to share her love for literature, especially poetry, with more of the world. When she's not reading or writing, you can most likely find her curled up on the couch mid-movie marathon or roller skating around campus.