Violation has caused quite the stir since its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. The revenge tale has made audiences and critics alike squeamish and for good reason.
Set in Canada, the film follows a young woman named Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer) who finds herself spiraling after she is assaulted by her brother-in-law. It is an intentionally uncomfortable journey that will leave you stunned as it reaches its final, unnervingly quiet conclusion.
Violation will premiere on Shudder on March 25, 2021, and in advance of that release co-directors Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli sat down with iHorror to discuss the film and what they hoped audiences would take away from its story.
**Interview contains some information some readers might see as spoilers.
The duo began working together after meeting at the TIFF filmmaker’s lab in Toronto back in 2015. where they became instant friends.
“From the very beginning of our friendship, we were interested in this idea of exploring trauma on film,” Sims-Fewer explained. “Trying to create a visceral experience for the audience so they feel the trauma that the characters are going through. It’s been a sort of through-line with our shorts. It was sort of after our second short that we started writing Violation.”
“We were so used to seeing this kind of romantic depiction of revenge where there’s this blood lust for the audience and you’re kind of cheering for that final moment when someone gets beheaded, or this awful thing happens to the villain,” Mancinelli added. “We were more interested in this real, rounded kind of gruesome response to revenge. What does that do to someone’s morality? How does it affect someone’s psychology? And really, we just tried to capture the mundane and horrific elements of revenge in a way where you really see the consequences and toll it takes on one woman as she kind descends into madness and darkness.”
Their path into this new lens they wanted to place on the revenge genre was made easier by placing the act of revenge in the middle of the film rather than waiting until the final act as so many of these films do. They also reframed the way in which we have seen those revenge scenes play out by turning the tables with the film’s nudity.
“Miriam is the character with the power,” Sims-Fewer explained. “She’s fully clothed. It’s not a woman who is using her sexuality to get power, having to undress to get power over the antagonist. I think seeing a woman who is clothed undress a man in that way and seeing him in this vulnerable position is quite shocking and that’s what we wanted.”
Taking on that power, however, came with an intense amount of emotional baggage when she switched from director to actor within the film. Thankfully, for her, she had a lot of support from her directing partner and the rest of the crew.
“I’m not going to lie,” she said. “It was definitely the most challenging thing either of us had ever done. Dusty, on his side, as well is completely steering the ship while I’m in the scene because I’m not thinking of any of the directorial stuff while I’m in it. He’s totally in control and bears the responsibility of both our collective vision. I like to go very deep into a role and experiment on set and kind of build into an emotion. We had a wonderful supportive crew who were there to help in any way possible. They were so helpful in creating a space where I could be totally, emotionally free and go down to the depths of my psyche and not feel weird or like people were judging me. I think that was really key.”
“We kind of design our sets around performance first instead of the technical,” Mancinelli said. “We work around the performances in an organic way. You’re not blocking for the camera; the camera is blocking for the actor. And that creates a lot of space for the actor. There’s no lights. We shoot with all-natural light so no stands, no marks. We’re not having the mechanics of calling action before a take. We do lots of long takes. There’s something about losing yourself in a moment as a performer where you shed yourself of the artifice of acting. It’s about creating the space to do it.”
The space in itself was its own puzzle. The two knew early on that they did not want a film that looked like every other film made by first-time feature directors from their part of the world. Instead of filming in Ontario, which they both described as a very flat landscape, they chose instead to travel six hours out to the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec.
The location provided a lush, varied landscape, and allowed them the space to go even further creatively by piecing separate locations to create something all their own.
“For us, it was like, we don’t have a lot of money so how can we cherry pick very specific locations that had already a specific look that fit into our palette,” Mancinelli said. “That was really the challenge. Every location in the movie is like five locations stitched together so that we get the best of all these worlds. This exact place doesn’t actually exist.”
“We used five different lakes,” Sims-Fewer added.
“That’s right!” Mancinelli continued. “It’s all about finding the best locations, and then finding what can you do within those locations to spruce them up a little bit. Even the waterfall, we drove eight hours deeper into the mountains to find that. We drove there. We had three hours to film. There’s this gorgeous vista in the mountains. We got our shots and then we drove eight hours back and it was just this intense thing to do.”
The intensity worked, and created a film that is as striking visually as it is tonally. There is a realness and a grit with using the natural lighting. It makes it feel more real which ultimately takes the tension of the events that unfold within the narrative to an entirely different level.
You can see Violation on Shudder starting tomorrow! Check out the trailer below, and let us know if you’ll be watching in the comments!