A documentary as laser-focused as its subject, drawing on themes of obsession and fear.
Synopsis: Journalist David Farrier (Tickled) is drawn into a game of cat and mouse with a mysterious individual. Delving deeper he unearths a trail of court cases, royal bloodlines and ruined lives, in this true story of psychological warfare.
David Farrier is no stranger to the weirder side of the world, whether in the notorious documentary Tickled or in various Dark Tourist adventures. As a result, you have to know that Mister Organ is about more than just a routine car clamping dispute. From a neighbourhood dispute about an antiques shop clamping cars a mysterious and sinister figure emerges – that of the titular Mister Organ. In Farrier’s own words, the nuances make this “exactly my kind of weird mess”.
The documentary is, ultimately, frustrating. Seemingly endless phone calls from Michael paint him as a tenacious, threatening, but primarily tedious figure – someone who has honed skills specifically to intimidate and bully. It is also frustrating if you are looking for answers as to how he arrived at this point. Farrier is clearly rattled by his behaviour and while this is understandable, it does feel like this somewhat stalls the investigative aspect of the documentary. Other talking heads appear, as well as Michael himself, but there is never a sense of insight into him. Part of this is down to a “hot and cold” filming process, in which Michael is sometimes on board and other times detached and evasive.
This does mean there is relatively little attention paid to the style of the documentary, playing out with very little stylistic flair. That isn’t strictly an issue for the subject matter but it can occasionally feel dry with nothing to divert the eye. At times, you are felt with the impression that this could serve better as a deep-dive podcast. One visual moment that does leave an impression, however, is of a housing area late in the film that does serve the film’s messaging as it almost shifts into a different space in an attempt to find some closure.
Outside of Organ’s repeated harassment campaigns and the human debris left in his wake, the documentary feels like it has a second layer that goes much deeper than just Michael. Using his situation as a lens for what planting a seed of fear can do and the documentary itself feeling like it taps the brakes, that sense of fear dominating the situation is palpable. Every dispute raised feels so small at the outset but as the story unfolds, the true impact of that relentless harassment becomes ever clearer. This is the real strength of the documentary and is worth the time it takes to arrive at that point.
A good documentary needs to capture the mood of its subject matter and in this sense, Mister Organ succeeds, building the trivial and almost humourous into something all-encompassing and genuinely unsettling.
3 out of 5 stars
Mister Organ will screen at the Glasgow Film Festival on March 7th and 8th. You can find out more about the screenings at the Glasgow Film Festival webpage.