In his new film M/M, Drew Lint gives us the story of Matthew — a young Canadian guy who has recently moved to Berlin. When he meets Matthias, Matthew quickly becomes obsessed — Matthias is everything that Matthew wants to be.
I caught up with Drew Lint for a behind-the-scenes look at the film.
What was your inspiration for this story?
I wanted to make a queer thriller. I mean queer both in the sense of having LGBTQ content, but also queer in the context of formal experimentation. I’m interested in making films that challenge tradition narrative structures.
So many LGBTQ films are about coming out. There’s certainly a place for that, but I wanted to offer an alternative. With that in mind, I started working on ideas for the script. During that period I moved from Toronto to Berlin, so the film began to take shape based on my initial impressions of the city. Berlin seemed like an ideal location to set a psychological thriller.
Even though I moved to Berlin with a friend, that time was equal parts inspiring and lonely. We were outsiders in a city full of outsiders. So that started to become a focal point for the story. Despite being based on my personal experiences of the city, the story is completely fabricated. It’s more of an exercise in experimenting with genre, specifically the thriller genre, than an autobiographical tale. That said, I think all writers draw on personal experience to write characters.
What was the production process?
The whole film took about four years in total from the beginning of writing to the end of post-production. I’d been making notes and thinking about the project for several months before I sat down to do the first draft, which took about a month. I did a couple of big revisions on that, so all-in-all I’d say writing took a year on and off. But we were already working on pre-production during that time.
There were still changes being made to the script up until shooting, mostly to fit the locations and cast we had for production. Principal photography lasted about three weeks.
Almost a year later we did a pickup shoot to add some things, mostly b-roll, so you could say the writing was still happening even into post-production. I also co-edited the film, with the very talented Andi Pek. Editing is basically a form of writing in itself. Shots and sequences get cut and reordered.
What was the casting process?
We didn’t hold formal auditions. Everyone in the film is a friend or acquaintance of mine from Berlin. I met Nicolas Maxim Endlicher at a club, shortly after moving to Berlin from Toronto. He’d also recently moved there, from Vienna. We became friends, and as I wrote the first draft of the script, I kept seeing his face when I imagined Matthias. When I finished the screenplay, I asked him if he’d be interested in acting in the film and he agreed.
Finding a Matthew was a slightly more difficult process, but in the end, equally fortuitous. I’d seen Antoine perform as Antoine93 — his musical act — in Berlin a year or so prior. I watched all his music videos, which he directs himself and performs in, and I became a fan. We were subsequently introduced by a mutual friend during the time I was casting for the film. I got in touch to see if he had any interest in acting. He did, so we met to do an informal audition and some camera tests and it just seemed like a good fit.
To be honest, I got really lucky in both cases.
Did directing your first feature-length production present any unexpected challenges?
Making this film was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But it’s also been the most rewarding. Every day on set brought a new set of unexpected challenges. I think it’s testament to the talent and commitment of the whole cast and crew that we have a finished film.
What does the film tell us about the experience of gay men in today’s world?
It touches on a few different topics. For one, the quest for perfection, which is tied in to self-optimisation. It’s something that seems innocuous, but I think it’s a slippery slope that can lead to fairly dangerous behaviour. We’re all so prone to comparison today. M/M is about desire — specifically, desire for acceptance and community. I think it’s easy to be deceived into thinking the easiest way to achieve that is through material change, even if those materials are your own body.
Another aspect, which is really quite connected, is hyper-masculinity — which I have a fascination with. It’s so performative, like masc drag. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing in and of itself, but again, like self-optimisation, things can get dark quickly when behaviour becomes toxic and aggressive. The film reflects on my own complicated relationship with masculinity — I think a lot of gay men can relate to that complicated relationship. We’re socialised to behave a certain way as males — in the closet or not, we learn that the path of least resistance is to adhere to those ‘male’ behavioural codes, even if they feel unnatural.
What sort of response have you had so far to the film?
We’ve had a lot of positive responses overall. Some negative ones too, which is to be expected with a challenging film like this one. I’m certainly happier to have strong responses to a film than mediocre ones. Give me high highs and low lows!
When this film does strike a chord with people, it really gets to them. I’ve had someone come up to me to tell me they cried during the film, which was a reaction I really didn’t expect. That was in Mexico. A couple of friends of mine told me they’d been dreaming about the film a few nights after watching it. They were haunted by it. That seems particularly fitting to me.
What do you hope that people feel when watching the film?
I just hope people feel something when they watch the film. Rainer Werner Fassbinder said he made films to make people feel first and then think later. I aim to do the same with my work. I think it’s important for people to connect emotionally with a film.