Before watching the riveting “Mister Organ”, it’s impossible to predict the wild, utterly engrossing and disturbing ride it will take you on.
Like David Farrier’s previous, critically acclaimed documentary Tickled, Mister Organ takes viewers down one garden path before veering sharply down a much darker and far more twisty road.
It begins innocently enough. Journalist Farrier writes a series of expose articles about a nefarious wheel-clamping practice outside a high-end antique store in New Zealand, which, though legal, feels very much like extortion.
Thanks to Farrier’s investigation, a new law is passed by parliament limiting the maximum allowable parking fine, and the shop, owned by Jillian Bashford-Evans, is forced to close. After innocently (or so he believed) grabbing a souvenir from the shuttered shop and bringing home some shop signs that had been discarded as trash, he’s met with a lawsuit for theft of property.
Representing Jillian in court is her former clamper and non-lawyer Michael Organ.
Though he has no actual legal credentials, Organ is a seasoned pro, having a highly litigious past. He wipes the floor with Farrier, resulting in a hefty fine for the journalist.
After Organ agrees to sit down to an interview with Farrier, with his apparent love interest Jillian in tow, things begin to unravel in increasingly strange and disturbing ways as Farrier finds himself sucked into the world of a conman and pathological liar.
How could an exploration of one oddball character be so damn compelling?
Organ is a strange and mysterious man whose both eerily charming and disturbingly off-putting.
He’s a man that seems intelligent enough to be a master manipulator but unhinged enough to be nearly sociopathic. He seems to be connected to many shenanigans, has a grossly overinflated sense of ego and importance, and delights in making himself an absolute menace.
And if that were all it is, the infinitely wry and witty Farrier could have still delivered a funny, engaging slice-of-life human interest story that was too peculiar to look away from.
But Mister Organ is so much more than that.
This unbelievably crazy tale about the enigmatic Michael Organ quickly becomes something more significant than an investigative documentary or character study.
Instead, we get a twisted, tragic, often terrifying tale that’s part dark comedy, part mystery thriller, and part psychological horror film about a man who wreaks havoc wherever he goes and leaves a trail of devastation in his wake.
Though Farrier purposely avoids any clinical analysis of Organ in his documentary, it’s clear we’re dealing with a narcissistic personality.
Even the best of us has narcissistic tendencies. We can all be selfish, insecure, neurotic, and harbor inflated senses of self-worth. But the true narcissist is pathological.
Narcissists need and seek too much attention and want people to admire them. They often lack the ability to understand or care about the feelings of others. And behind their mask of extreme confidence, they are unsure of their self-worth and are easily upset by the slightest criticism.
Prolonged interactions with this personality type can feel soul-sucking.
Or, as journalist-filmmaker David Farrier explains, regarding his emotionally damaging time spent with a highly toxic narcissist, it’s like falling into a black hole.
Farrier’s five-year descent into madness with Organ chronicles a chilling, personal account of what it’s like when a man like this sinks his claws into you and refuses to let go.
Organ is a dangerous predator, toying with his prey and delighting in their torment. But he’s also so wildly fascinating and impossible to pin down that Farrier can’t help but seek answers, even as he spirals further into Organ’s rabbit hole of emotional control.
Organ begins the film as a quirky little oddity, more annoying than alarming.
But the extent of his manipulation and psychological influence over people begins to feel far more menacing than either David or the audience initially assumes.
While Mark Proksch’s portrayal of energy vampire Colin Robinson on What We Do in the Shadows (television series) is hilarious and endearing, Organ is the real-world embodiment of this personality type: someone who drains your emotional energy, leaving you feeling anxious and irritable.
Early on, Farrier describes his interactions with Organ and explains, “You pay a soul tax for every minute you spend with him.”
It’s not long before Farrier begins to feel the negative effects of his interactions with Organ, struggling mentally and emotionally in a way he can’t articulate or explain.
As Farrier becomes increasingly fascinated by the web of intricate lies Organ has spun, intrigued by his motivations and thought process, he finds himself in the crosshairs of Organ’s laser-like focus and increasing obsession.
The investigator becomes the target.
Suddenly, Organ is everywhere. He’s somehow managed to acquire a key to David’s house. He calls frequently and talks for hours. He refuses to provide any straight answers, runs hot and cold during the documentary filming process he agreed to, and delights in keeping David in the dark at every turn — dishing out just enough cryptic clues to keep his prey wriggling on the hook.
As compelling as Organ himself is, the real weight of the film is delivered via interviews with his past victims.
As Farrier speaks with those formerly close to Organ, one of whom is tragically no longer alive to share his story, we realize the extent of Organ’s casual cruelty and potentially calculated acts of terror.
Many will only speak to Farrier with the promise of anonymity, clearly still worried about Organ’s continued influence in their lives.
It’s a potent reminder that this type of behavior has significant consequences and often results in very real pain and suffering.
Thus, it’s also remarkable and impressive that Farrier would stick with his investigation long after the real threat of Organ’s psychological warfare came into full focus.
While it would be easy for an outsider to quip about Farrier’s culpability in the personal hellscape he falls into, wondering why he didn’t walk away at the first sign of trouble, Farrier is first and foremost a journalist who has dedicated his life to revealing mysteries and uncovering hidden truths.
And that aside, it’s difficult to watch Mister Organ and not empathize with the desperate desire to understand what drives a man like Organ.
Folly though it may be, as Organ relentlessly keeps his cards close to his chest, it’s nearly impossible not to hope against hope for some illuminating revelation.
Who is the real Michael Organ?
At various points, he claims to be royalty, a lawyer, and a genius; he’s a man of many different names and titles.
But what makes him tick? What motivates him to do the things he does? How did he get like this? And does he believe any of his own nonsense?
Is he delusional or just dangerously deceptive?
After devoting far too many hours and years of his life seeking answers that never come, Farrier is understandably deflated and demoralized by the realization that he can’t walk away until he has something worthy of his personal investment.
And Mister Organ morphs into something much more than a portrait of a perplexing man.
It’s as much a story about the filmmaker as the subject. It’s about hubris and desperation. It’s Odysseus’ agonizing across the Aegean Sea — a week-long sail that turned into a ten-year ordeal.
I first caught the World Premiere of this film at Fantastic Fest 2022.
Out of the thirty-some-odd films I caught during the fest, each more remarkable and engaging than the last, Mister Organ easily rose to the top of my most memorable and affecting viewings.
I had the pleasure of hearing Farrier talk about his film at the post-screening Q&A at Fantastic Fest. I found him to be hilarious, thoughtful, and quite charming. He talked about the nearly impossible feat of trying to edit the film, the culmination of an exhaustive five years of research and hours upon endless hours of phone calls and interviews.
He explained why he felt so compelled to put himself through this ordeal, which ended with him having to move to an unlisted address in order to feel some sense of safety.
This wasn’t just a film about Michael Organ, one particularly nasty narcissist. It’s a film about all those people like him who take advantage of kindness, exploit vulnerabilities, and prey upon others to feed their bottomless pit of insecurities.
“We all know people who are like him. This is a person who is everywhere.”
Farrier views Mister Organ as a cautionary tale, explaining that if you meet someone like this, you must get out before you become entrenched.
Farrier was flooded with questions about his film at one of the most engaging Q&As I’ve had the pleasure of attending. The one that struck me the most was when an audience member asked, “Knowing what you know now, would you do it again?”
Without hesitation, he emphatically responded, “No! I’d prefer this hadn’t happened.”
That’s more than understandable given how much turmoil Farrier suffered as a result of this project, which extended long after the film wrapped.
As Farrier explains early in the film, “Michael refuses to let anything go.” Once he has you in his sights, he mercilessly pursues you until he drives you to the point of insanity… or worse.
Coinciding with the timing of Mister Organ’s screening at Make Believe Seattle, Farrier has spoken up about some of the events surrounding the release of the film and legal action that had been taken against him, which he was previously barred from discussing.
In an article on Farrier’s investigative website, Webworm — the place where Farrier digs into internet mysteries, investigates weird stuff, and attempts to hold bad guys to account — he revealed how far Organ’s influence has penetrated his life and livelihood.
Three days before Mister Organ’s New Zealand premiere, Farrier was served a temporary protection order by the Family Court.
Because the case originated in Family Court, the details were strictly confidential and heavily suppressed. This meant Farrier couldn’t speak on the matter, even as New Zealand broadcaster and ally of Michael Organ began to openly share the allegations and wield public accusations at David.
So, at the precise time when Farrier was trying to promote Mister Organ, he was battling a court case, facing questions from reporters he couldn’t answer, and suffering backlash in the court of public opinion.
The case was summarily dismissed, but Farrier spent $25,000 battling it in court proceedings that Organ was there to observe.
Farrier ends the article on a horrifying note:
“As always, Mister Organ was there. He’s always there. He’s been in my life since 2016, and I’m not entirely convinced I will ever be rid of him.”