There’s an alluring craziness in The Misandrists that refuses to let itself be pegged as a feminist fantasy or satire, existing in a transmundane state of a chaotic gender war. It’s a cage rattler of a film that doesn’t so much want to make a point as it wants to shock and awe in its surreal dance of lesbianism, the violent revolution of the sexes, and penis mutilation. The easiest way to describe it is what would happen if John Waters and David Lynch teamed up to make the most bizarre of feminist cinema. And even that description may not do it justice.
The film wastes no time cranking up the weirdness, its opening title card stating that the story takes place in Ger(Wo)many. In a secluded mansion resides a radical feminist center, disguised as a nunnery to fool any male visitors. One wandering male entices two young female students of the group; he is injured, on the run from the law. Intrigued, the girls hide him in the basement and keep him fed and healthy. Whatever wheels might be spinning in your head about where this story is going will have a monkey wrench thrown into them soon. Within that same scene of discovering the lost man, two other students are carefully studying and discussing hardcore gay male pornography, hoping to produce some of their lesbian-themed productions.
Their cult-like leader, Big Mama, manages the group, played by Susanne Sachße in the style of an older Lady Gaga gone cuckoo. She runs a tight ship, demanding loyalty from her girls by instilling rage against men with such lessons as “The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his chest.” With her commitment to hiding her group from public eyes and planning out their means of theft and violence to maintain order, it seems her army is in line. Or so she thinks. We quickly learn that not all the girls are entirely on board for Big Mama’s vision of a man-free world. Yes, it has to do with the boy in the basement, but also swirling distrust, the closed-door rule breaking, and the surprising reveal of some of the women not being who they appear.
This movie is unapologetically wild and bonkers in its dizzying dance of gender provocation. Intercut among the many spacious scenes of female empowerment classes and dirty secrets are the oddest of transitions. A disguised nun walks the grounds and stops for a moment to do a random and old-fashioned dance routine before going back to her walk. Several scenes end with or lead into sexual acts, growing progressively more graphic as the movie goes on. Those two porno-filming girls indeed show improvement in their devotion to their craft.
And there are a handful of scenes that are very uncomfortable to sit through, yet they are still admirable in an absurd way. The most brutal by far is the ceremonial dissection of the penis with a captured male. Rather than cutting away, the movie cuts to real footage of cutting open and removing the appendage. It’s all very grotesque and given a humorous cap with a ridiculous amount of blood sprayed on the observing girls.
From start to finish, The Misandrists is chaotically presented with its dry acting, ludicrous dialogue, vivid ugliness, and just plain weirdness in its savagery of female empowerment. The ending, featuring all the girls armed with guns and storming a cinema, is sure to garner a big debate about the message and themes of such an experience. In one light, the film is a sobering satire on how radicalization is messy and insane. In another glow, it’s a case for how women need to suffer through internal strife before striking outward at society. Whatever the intent, the awe of is transmundane approach was enough to make me watch with an eyebrow raised continuously, trying to decipher.