The Misandrists


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

The Misandrists will open SQIFF
"Something like a cross between Carry On Solanas! and The Beguiled" | Photo: © Jürgen Brüning Filmproduktion / J.Jackie Baier

Take one queer, feminist, lesbian, separatist terrorist movement. Add a boarding school/convent environment: a Mother Superior, who rules the assembled women with a rod of iron. Now add a dash of dark – very dark – humour!

The result, in the Misandrists, is something like a cross between Carry On Solanas! and The Beguiled, starring Clint Eastwood. The latter film, recently updated, tells the tale of a Union soldier who takes refuge in a Confederate girls' boarding school, stirs up passions and jealousies and then suffers a terrible revenge at their hands.

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In the Misandrists, the set-up is obvious – and contains more than a few parallels to the Eastwood story. In the opening scenes, a young man, Volker (Til Schindler) is on the run from the authorities after carrying out an attack on the Stock Exchange. Encountering Isolde (Kita Updike) and Hilde (Olivia Kundisch), two members of the Female Liberation Army, he persuades Isolde to hide him in the school's basement. Not a clever idea since the premises have been declared a literal no-man's land by Big Mother (Susanne Sachße) who runs the place.

You know, from the outset, that this is going to end badly, but how and for whom only time will tell.

What follows is a working out of Mother's plan to fund the FLA by producing women's porn, by women, for women and to eliminate or re-assign, with a little help from a scalpel or two, the local men. It's a small start: her total acolytes, consisting of four teachers and eight pupils, are aptly apostolic in number and, yes, one turns out to be a female Judas, sent into their midst to betray them to the authorities.

Nothing goes to plan. Not only Volker and the undercover snake-in-the-grass but at least one other member of the crew turns out to be not at all who you think they are. But, no spoilers!

This is a neat, clever little film, and all creds to writer and director Bruce LaBruce for pulling this off.

It is tightly plotted, makes sense within its own outlandish and impossible world and delivers his trademark style, mixing explicit and pornographic depictions of sex with more conventional narrative. It delivers a close focus look at a community and prime actors who live their lives according to principles so outside the norm that many would consider them in and of themselves ridiculous. Or are they? Because this is a world in which radical feminism and lesbian separatism are taken seriously and the principles espoused and discussed are only ridiculous when juxtaposed with a patriarchal world that is not separatist and feminist.

For those tuned into such topics it makes perfect sense.

Perhaps what is stranger – a core element of the film's sideways comedy – is how pretty much everyone, from Volker to Mother to the girls and their teachers spends their days talking about these topics. Injured, on the run, throwing himself on the mercy of Hilde and Isolde, Volker stutters out: “vandalism is a crime against property and therefore an act of no consequence”, and “the criminal act is progressive when it acts out violence against capitalism.” Somehow that is not the sort of everyday dialogue one would anticipate ever in any sort of movie.

Or take the grace with which Big Mother commences a communal meal: “glory be to the mother and to the daughter and to the holy cunt.” Yes. It makes sense. And it's funny: not funny ho-ho, but enough to bring a smile to the lips of anyone brought up in a queer tradition who has spent a part of their lives engaging with such politics.

Throw in a sexual tension that alternates between suppressed and acted out with an enthusiastic promiscuity, as well as the pornography research team who seem to get just a bit too involved in their research and there is many a smile to be had.

The music, too, is different, ever so slightly off-centre and a fitting accompaniment to the film. A thumbs up to Susanne Oberbeck/No Bra and Jennifer Castle for their contribution.

If there is one criticism to make, it is that this film is so rarefied, so outside the orbit of conventional narrative that it will never have a wide following. The fact that other critics appear to dislike it bears testament to that!

This is a film destined to attract epithets like radical, unconventional and even disturbing. It is unlikely to gain a mainstream showing, unless very late at night on a specialist channel. Which is a shame, because it is fun, and has, at its core, a message worth hearing. If it is lucky it will become fashionable, achieve some sort of cult status and spend the next decade doing the rounds of alternative and queer festivals. But it deserves more.

Reviewed on: 16 Dec 2018
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The Misandrists packshot
A radical female ‘army of lovers’ is preparing itself to fight for a world without men.

Director: Bruce La Bruce

Writer: Bruce La Bruce

Starring: Susanne Sachße, Viva Ruiz, Kembra Pfahler, Caprice Crawford, Grete Gehrke, Kita Updike, Victoire Laly, Olivia Kundisch, Lina Bembe, Til Schindler, Dominik Hermanns

Year: 2017

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Germany

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