The dialogue-free witch-hunt thriller Malleus Maleficarum had its Toronto Premiere at the 2014 Blood in the Snow Film Festival as part of the Short Film Showcase. As the festival, I sat down with the film’s director Torin Langen to discuss the short.
Sean Kelly: What were your inspirations for the film?
Torin Langen: I’m a huge fan of surrealist cinema. I love experiment movies. One of my favourite filmmakers is Jan Švankmajer – he’s a Czech surrealist animator/director – and his films usually, because they have some sort of political message, are told without dialogue, so they can be universally understood. I like working with no dialogue, because gesture is universal. Lately I’ve been doing a series of movies with no dialogue, so I could submit to pretty much any festival in the world and the characters are easily understood that way. As far as creative inspiration goes, I love Jan Švankmajer like I said, Michael Todd Schneider is another huge influence – his use of colour grading and bizarro camera angles and everything – that’s another huge inspiration, and just outsider cinema as a whole.
Sean: What was the biggest challenge of the production?
Torin: Everything before this was sort of done by myself and some friends on weekends, where we would sort of grab pieces here and there and then stick it together in post as we went along. This was my first time working on more of an actually fixed schedule, where I was in a directing position. Because of that, we had to coordinate everything, so we were shooting over the course of several days. Luckily, I had some help with producing, but I was still producing a lot of it on my own. So, it was a challenge in learning how to produce in that way and also be involved in creative capacities, since I was manning the camera and directing at the same time. So, the biggest challenge I think was just juggling all of those hats and dealing with the stresses of being in a very new creative environment. But, all in all, I’m very happy with how it went.
Sean: What’s one thing you want people to know about the film?
Torin: It was produced with a very small budget, as most of the films here, even by the standards of features. Like I said, it’s a movie told with no dialogue. There is a little bit of a religious message in there, in the sense that the lead characters of the film are religious fundamentalists that have sort of gone back to the dark ages and have even resorted to sacrificing witches. While it’s not really the point of the movie, I think there is a little bit of a message in there, saying that we have gone too far in our society in some ways, resorting to religion as a method that can be used to harm people, or to shame other people, or to be shown as some sort of elitism. So, there’s a bit of a hint of that in there too. But overall, it’s important I think that people support independent cinema as a whole and if coming out to see Malleus means supporting independent cinema and maybe bringing awareness to other things in this community, then by all means.
Sean: How did you feel about your film showing at Blood in the Snow?
Torin: This was my first time seeing it with that big of a crowd. I’ve only been able to be present at one other screening before. It’s played at a couple festivals: It played up at Mascara and Popcorn in Montreal, it played at the Housecore Film Festival down in Texas, and it played at the South Hampton Film Festival in England. This is only the second screening that I’ve been able to make it out to. So, it was really cool to see your movie with an actual audience and everything and be able to sort of get a feel for the crowd. Because with a movie like this, it’s not even a movie that has a ton of jump scares – it’s more about a slow, foreboding build – so, just to sort of get a feel for the audience and the energy that they give off, while they are watching something like this, is really, really rewarding.