The job of an investigative journalist is to dive deep into the fray, willing to get their hands dirty to undercover the truth of the subject they’re covering. In this search for objectivity, lines can be drawn to make sure if the relationship to their subject becomes too personal, they have the ability to walk away. But in David Farrier’s latest documentary, Mister Organ, he becomes wrapped into a web of lies and manipulation that he can’t escape, thanks in large part to the person he is documenting, Michael Organ.
It started five years ago, when Farrier was looking for his next story to cover. Farrier, a New Zealand journalist and filmmaker, whose notable work has tackled competitive tickling (the shockingly compelling Tickled) and dark side of tourism (like macabre Bourdain-like series Dark Tourist), and tends to lean on the “weirder” (his words) topics in his portfolio. So when he heard of a local antique shop ripping of people for after hour street parking, placing boots on people’s cars and blocking them till they pay hundreds of dollars to get their cars back, Farrier set off to find out why this was happening. In doing this, he discovers Michael Organ, a man hired by the shop owner, Jillian Bashford, to handle any business that needs to be done to make sure herself and the shop are kept safe.
In doing a deep dive into Organ, Farrier discovers a monster, someone who won’t stop until they have consumed your soul through an assortment of mental tactics he has perfected with his time on Earth. An alleged member of “royalty,” Organ is a leach that attaches himself to a poor victim (a roommate, family member, lover, family of his lover), and never let’s go till he destroys them. Estranged from his family, Organ went through an assortment of legal problems that led him to become a person expert of the law, so much so that he claims to be a lawyer and thus sues Farrier on behalf of Bashford since the negative press of their actions were exposed in Farriers articles, thus forcing the antique shop to shut down. The first sign in knowing Farrier might have met his match was in the court proceedings, where Organ’s long winded monologues elongated the legal process to the point in which the judge ruled in Bashford’s favor.
One might think Farrier would take this loss and move on, but he can’t help but be fascinated, like many people in Organ’s past, in this man and how he operates, how he is able to manipulate the system to bend to his will. In doing this, he sets out to interview Organ, Bashford, their family and friends, and come to a conclusion about who exactly Organ is and why he does what he does. With this exploration, we find out that a majority of family members don’t want to speak to the documentarian, and of the ones that do, they say the same thing about Organ that many of his former friends and victims said, “run.” Even after hearing this warning, Farrier doesn’t heed it and jumps into the deep with Organ. Coming face to face with the most dangerous subject he has ever covered in his professional career, he must uncover the truth without compromising his mental health and allowing Organ to take another sick, twisted victory into the mind of someone he gets close to.
The majority of the film is filled with frustrating conversations between Farrier, Organ, and Bashford. Anytime he tries to get into Michael’s past, his mistakes, and questions his lies, Organ has a long diatribe about how Farrier doesn’t have the facts, and a simple answer turns into a thirty-minute explanation that leads to nowhere. In many ways, we feel like Farrier in these moments, flabbergasted at the responses coming out of Organ’s mouth, even laughing at the absurdity of the whole situation. Through that though lies the exhaustion of just wanting him to come clean about his wrongdoings so the process can be over, but Organ never relents. Behind this madness lies a fundamental truth about our world that the filmmaker has to learn the hard way, that some people will fight to the bitter end no matter how much they are proven to be wrong by facts. Our society is filled with plenty of people like Michael Organ, who believe the world is theirs to control, and thus has to bend to everyone syllable that comes out of their mouth. Their fuel is the pain they inflect on those they come in contact with, and once he is gone, nothing is left but pain and destruction for those poor souls he tortured to clean up, with some not even able to survive what he has done to them.
We hear about the extent of Organ’s damage in various testimonials from people from his past, but we see it happen to Farrier in real life. The terror of the situation really sets in when Organ calls Farrier to let him know that, after their first conversations, Organ was able to obtain a key to Farrier’s home. This was told to Farrier as proof that there are many people in both of their lives that they can’t trust, turning this documentary into a white knuckle thriller for the remaining of the run time, leaving Farrier and the audience emotionally exhausted by the mere existence of trying to know who Michael Organ is.
Mister Organ is a riveting, tense examination of when something is so fascinating that it might not be worth poking around in order to just not wake up a dangerous sleeping bear.
This review is from 2022 Fantastic Fest. Mister Organ is currently without U.S. distribution.