Director Victoria Wharfe McIntyre's World War II revenge western THE FLOOD, centres on aboriginal woman Jarah (Alexis Lane), who subjected to the violence of Australia's bigoted system seeks her own violent retribution against those men that have wronged her.


In conversation with FRIGHTFEST, McIntyre discussed bringing a deeper personal exploration of healing to the revenge story and allowing her audience no escape from the onscreen violence.


FrightFest: Why film as a means of creative expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment for you personally?


Victoria Wharfe McIntyre: Well I'm no good at drawing [laughs]. Film is the ultimate art form. It's immersive, visual, oral, and it involves so many different artists coming together to create something. It's a community driven piece that lives forever. How could you not want to do that.


FF: Were there any films in particular that encouraged your love for cinema?


VWM: Does it sound bizarre to say FANTASIA? The Disney animated film is trippy, and it’s set to classical and musically orientated stuff. I loved it, and then I became obsessed with the Hollywood musicals, all of the Gene Kelly films. It wasn't until my late teens and early adulthood that I got into European cinema. In hindsight I've had a huge love for the music and visual combination, and I see how strong that influence is – my films are very musical, or music filled.


FF: Picking up on your point about your love of musicals, the attention to the movement of the characters in the frame, the rhythm of the dialogue, and the stylistic flourishes of THE FLOOD has a musical dimension. We could contextualise the film as a bridge between the revenge film and the musical. Do you see this connection and is there more than one version of the film, where the audience can enjoy the revenge narrative, or look beyond it?


VWM: Absolutely, and it’s the same in our relationships and interactions. People see everything through their own lens. It’s the difference between actuality and reality, and what you think something is.


Those things you were talking about are the most important elements of the film. They’re my genuine expression because I didn't consciously set out to do that, it's how I see the world and how I tell the story. It's natural and I haven't looked at it like that before. On that point, because so much of it is one shot, the choreography is like the musical dance numbers, where the camera and the actors are dancing around one another. They're in a relationship and they have to coordinate and move together.


FF: If there’s an intuitive side to the filmmaking process and the director listens to what the film wants to be, then just as the critics and audience are trying to understand the film, so are you. Yet, we place an emphasis on the director’s opinion as being authoritative. This presents an intriguing contradiction.


VWM: I believe films have their own life, and my job is to support its uncovering. We did that with this film, which dictated clearly all the way through. It has attracted people to make it, and it has pushed people away. It has had a strong voice, and it has driven me. I can't do anything but let it be what it is.


At any time we might have tried to push it in a different direction, or make it feel a certain way, it didn't work. It wasn't right; it had to be itself, and that’s why I love it. I feel blessed that I love my film so much and I don't expect other people to because it’s a divisive film. Some people hate it and some people love it. There are not many people that don't have a feeling one way or the other, or don't give a shit. People seem to have strong opinions, and I'm thrilled that it exists, and is itself.



FF: There were moments when I asked whether the violence was too much. We need to be honest about the capacity for violence in man, and your film shows this cruelty, especially towards the aboriginal population. When you have a perspective of a group being worthless and less than human, and we don't deem them as being entitled to the same rights as everyone else, it leads to extreme acts of prejudicial violence.


VWM:  I don't think there's any graphic violence in this film at any point. Most of the time you don't see the violent act, but it's real and what's hard about it is there's no escape for you. We don't cut away from anything; it's just happening. I did it in such a way that you can't look away and you can't escape. I find it interesting that we're not showing it, and yet it's so visceral and gut wrenching at times.


As people we don't want to acknowledge that we carry it within us, but it's in all of us. Now our civilisation has dulled the edges of it and in Australia, we haven't acknowledged this. The film in part is trying to grab Australia by the collar, shake it and say, “We need to look at this and own our past.” It’s not that anyone living today is responsible for it, I'm not saying that, but generational trauma needs to be acknowledged. The truth of it needs to be held by everyone and seen, and space for how we feel about it needs to be allowed, then we can move forward together, unified. This is also what the film is about, not only on a national level, but also on an individual level in our own relationships. In that sense it’s a universal human story.


FF: You’re correct that the violence, for example the rape is not graphically violent. Instead your approach appeals to the audience’s emotions, understanding that we respond more to a tear in someone's eye than a knife pulled across their throat. It taps into our fear of vulnerability that allows you to effectively create an impression of graphic violence that’s absent, but doesn’t disavow its viciousness.


VWM: The film also moves beyond that and starts revealing the journey towards the light, and towards healing, particularly for Jarah. I don't want to spoil anything that happens, but she confronts becoming the evil, and what that does to her when she sees it and realises that unless she addresses that, her own life is ruined. It’s now all about her, it’s not about anyone else, or what anyone has done to her. It’s about what she's doing to herself because she has taken that and internalised it. She’s continuing to live with it and she realises that she has to find a way to let that go and move beyond it.


You don't often see that level of personal exploration in films that talk about revenge. Usually you see the revenge, then we move on. Here, we're talking about healing and we see that process. It’s only the start of the process for Jarah, and no one's saying it's all neatly tied up with a little ribbon, and she's okay at the end of the film. She’s on that path like we all are, and it’s never tied up with a little ribbon. It’s part of why the film feels real. THE FLOOD is planting seeds for those concepts, notions and ideas. It’s not all horror, there's so much love and beauty in this film as well, so much healing.


THE FLOOD is available now courtesy of 4Digital Media.


Paul Risker.


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