Today we have Michael Rossi in to talk about his latest film Misogynist¹! The film strikes an interesting balance between being a character driven thriller and a timely piece of social commentary and Michael and I spend a few minutes below chatting about his goals for the film and the difficulties he faced with such a sensitive subject. Read on for our interview…
Hello, thanks for joining me today! How are you Michael?
I’m doing fantastic, thank you for having me.
That’s no problem! First of all could you just tell us all a little about Misogynist‘s plot and how you first came to the idea?
Misogynist is a character driven story of a very dark and twisted man, of the people who gravitate towards him and how he affects them. He is chauvinistic guru who holds underground seminars in the art of controlling men and his best student, Harrison, slowly begins to find out more about this mysterious figure and what made him who he was.
I knew for my first feature I had to make something that stood out and really stuck with the audience after they saw the film and the story was influenced by some people I knew directly and indirectly growing up and a lot of their ideologies do not differ too much from the characters on the screen.
It’s disturbing to think there are still people around who are like that! How difficult was it to represent both gender and gender attitudes within a film that is so very conscious of the various contemporary issues surrounding the subject?
I didn’t want to gloss over or sugar coat anything within the film. I represented some characters with some extremely sick and offensive views towards the opposing gender, but I knew I couldn’t hold back at all. I knew if I was going to make this film, I couldn’t portray a watered-down version of how misogynists are. It’s intense and hard to swallow at some points but that was the point because the awful truth is there are individuals like this in real life.
Trevor and a few other characters in the film are unrelenting in their approach and views towards the opposite sex and as hard as it is to watch at some points, I needed to show the harsh reality of how some of them are. The women in the film vary with each character and if you really delve into their characters you will understand that they are stronger than the men in the film, especially the character of April who learns the hard way, but also is probably the most genuine and morally-sound character.
It’s interesting and praiseworthy Michael that you refuse to overly sexualise either the actors or actresses here despite the fact that sex is such a prevalent theme and there are at least two sex scenes. What was your thinking behind that approach?
I’m a firm believer that less is more in a lot of cases and I didn’t feel the need to sensationalize the sex scenes to a graphic and prolonged point. The audience realizes what is going on and what is going to happen and the tone is dark enough, so I left it at that. The imagination of what is happening can be far more frightening than anything a filmmaker can put on screen.
Well I certainly agree with that. Now as you said, a number of your characters are intentionally unlikable, particularly the misogynist guru Trevor, so what difficulties did you find when writing a script which focuses on such a repulsive person but which also has to hold the audience’s attention?
Trevor was by far the hardest character to cast because of how despicable he was. I knew that I needed an actor that still had that subtle charm about him which could still humanize the role enough that the audience would still want to figure out why he is who is. Jon Briddell did that brilliantly I feel and although there was a part of me that wondered if the audience would still feel I’m endorsing misogyny, I think most who watch the whole film realize it is more of a character piece on Trevor more than anything else.
I think it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t endorse these viewpoints. What did you do to ensure that isn’t how the film came across?
The film is a window into the world of the title character, Trevor. Yes, he certainly is a misogynist and then some, but it is also about who he is, so I wasn’t trying to hit the audience over the head with what he was teaching and more about WHY he does it. We learn towards the end that he felt affected and severely hurt by a woman in the past, so as a result he shifted his thoughts towards women in a very brutal way, deciding to just use them for anything.
The film is such a character driven piece that I knew it would adopt thriller elements organically which it did. My main approach was to shed light onto the reality that men like this exist even to this degree and that they do not only affect the women they harm, but also the men that begin to believe in their ideologies.
I did try to blend the two, but I wasn’t trying to over-emphasize the social commentary and cram it down the audience’s throats. I feel one of the strongest components of the film is Briddell’s performance of Trevor. As sick a character as he is; you can’t help yourself but be captivated by his sociopathic charm and that’s the response I’ve gotten from many people. They know he’s evil; but they can’t take their eyes off him and want to know what he’s going to do next.
And finally Michael, is gender an area you would like to return to? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I am always interested in exploring cerebral films on the human condition. I think Misogynist will probably remain one of my “loudest” and most disturbing film, but I aim to continue to tackle character driven pieces. My next film will probably be a film called Sable, a dramatic thriller piece of a young woman who intends to break free of her past and start a new life, but has to conquer a few demons in the process.
Sounds good! Thanks again for chatting with me today Michael!
And that’s that. I hope you all enjoyed this interview with Michael Rossi, make sure you leave your thoughts behind in the comment box below!