Michael Bachochin has been working as a writer and producer for almost 10 years, but returns to the director’s chair for his second feature film, Parallax.
Centered on the character of Naomi, a woman who wakes up in a life she has no memory of, it’s a film with multiple levels.
We spoke to Michael about the film, his inspirations for Naomi and where he plans to go next.
The film was a mix of focus on the human psyche and depression, but also dimension travel. Which element of the story came first for you?
Definitely the human elements. The original seed of the film, I had been going through a six month tail spin of depression, I was not doing anything rewarding, creatively. I work in film as a producer so I’m doing all this work but none of it is rewarding. I had a client I worked with who was like ‘you just need to write, you just need to do it, once you get over that hump of I can’t do it, you’ll be fine.’ I was like, you know what? Screw it, I’ll see what happens.
Basically as a writer I had my nugget of truth and my nugget of truth was what I was going through, I was a depressed artist who couldn’t find satisfaction in anything. I felt disconnected from life, from reality, from my career.
I put myself in this world and I thought, I like sci-fi, I like time travel, I like weird parallel realities and honestly when I started it I didn’t know where I was going with that. I just had this character who’s disconnected and as I felt through it, the sci-fi and parallel realities all fell in to place, but it wasn’t intentionally sci-fi to begin with.
The fiancé character of Lucas seemed quite villainous to begin with, perhaps due to his reaction to Naomi’s depression. How intentional was this vilifying of him for the first half of the film?
Vilifying seems a little harsh to me. Lucas cares about Naomi in his own crappy, screwed up way and it’s not even really crappy. Naomi plays this allegorical figure for mental illness and she’s this stereotype. She’s very much a character inspired by myself as an artist and I’ve had a lot of relationships with Lucas’. People who want to care but they don’t understand how to care about people with mental illness. It’s a problem for their significant other but it becomes their problem. Like Lucas at the therapist ‘why is this happening to me, why did I get stuck with this woman who can’t stand me, who doesn’t want to be with me?’ It’s not like he’s being mean, he just doesn’t have patience to understand what she’s experiencing. Their intention is good but they’re so completely removed and detached from the experience that they have no idea how to react to it.
You’ve mentioned Naomi was inspired by yourself as an artist, there’s so many ways to portray dimension travel, why specifically the medium of paintings?
The whole film is a big commentary on mental illness in culture, especially with someone like Naomi. She’s not just this depressed soul, she’s this architype bipolar character, she’s up down, up down, she’s kind of a couple different people split between how she feels. People have this viewpoint of people with bipolar, we have Homeland, Kanye West, these icons of bipolar. A lot of them self-describe bi-polar as being a super power but it’s the super power nobody wants. I thought more literally, how can I take a superpower and wrap it up in this very pragmatic envelope, this real world delivery system? At its core that’s what this painting skill is, it’s almost like this Heroes-esque kind of super power that’s playing as a satire about mental illness.
There’s a key change in Parallax’s plot and tone when Mikayla appears. I noted that it was exactly halfway through the film.
We’re leading down one road and we’re feeling like this is a movie about mental illness, then Mikayla shows up and splinters and fragments that. Even Naomi gets to this point in the movie where there’s this moment of complacency before she meets Mikayla for the first time. A little like ‘maybe I am just crazy, maybe this is just in my head, maybe I do need to just trust my patriarchal fiancé and just let him take care of me.’ Instead of exploring herself and learning about herself. There’s this moment of weakness, a flaw and so Mikayla really pushes us. This isn’t just a story about dementia and Alzheimer’s or bipolar.
A lot of the film is Naomi being trapped in this life she doesn’t know, in a home that she can’t really leave. In the wake of lockdown and Covid-19, have you found new parallels between Naomi’s every day and your everyday life?
Coincidentally it’s now like the ‘perfect quarantine movie’. It’s so relatable, everybody feels trapped inside their homes. It’s funny because I wrote this at a time when I felt trapped inside my home, and we actually filmed in my home, so it figuratively and literally was a place I was trapped. I do a lot of work from home as a writer, and it’s like the work from home mentality, everyone’s jealous of it until you’re there and then you’re like get me out of here. That was another little angle I was going on, this trapped confined artist, it’s funny it is just coincidence now.
This is your second feature film as a director, what changed from your first feature back in 2014?
I was a different person when I did my first movie. Every artist wants to say that movie to movie, but literally, if you go back and watch that movie and look at the style, the aesthetic, even the way I pace and edit scenes, it’s completely different from Parallax.
I realised that the only person who will care about my movie as much as I care about my movie is me. That changed my approach to everything. That changed my approach to what kind of movie I want to make, to how I wanted that movie to look and feel. Basically it changed my lens from experiencing my movie the way I wanted to experience it versus trying to put myself in the hot seat of the viewer. Experience the movie as they would experience it, without any knowledge of what I had intended. That should be a given, but that’s a really big hump for artists to get over, to take yourself out and say you know what? I love this, but you might not love this and so why don’t you love this? Then try and fine tune it and tweak it to create the experience I wanted it to create.
The ending of Parallax is one of my favourite things, and it’s funny because it’s one thing that critics that don’t like the movie have non-stop torn apart, the ambiguous ending. To me, it’s the perfect ending. I actually cut two scenes from the end of the movie to make that, it was not the original ending. To wrap the film up too completely would be to give an ending to mental illness since the film is about that and it’s supposed to be about the struggle, the journey of this artist. Without that ambiguous ending, that drifting ending, that would infer to an audience that there’s resolution with this illness, with an illness. And there is no resolution, this is just perpetual.
I have two projects, two thrillers that we’re trying to package right now. One is called Cascadia and one is called Hunter’s Moon. Cascadia is a rip on a cabin in the woods horror trope with an existential surreal drug trip. Hunter’s Moon is a little bit more in the vein of Good Time or Uncut Gems, it’s like an adrenaline thriller with a female revenge horror aspect to it. But now it’s up to the pandemic when we can get these done.