At the Toronto International Film Festival, we sat down with Raffey Cassidy (Vox Lux) and Michiel Huisman (The Invitation, Game of Thrones) to discuss their latest film, The Other Lamb. It tells the story of a young girl coming of age in a cult, and how she becomes increasingly frustrated with the restrictions placed on her life.
I saw your film that you had last year at TIFF, Vox Lux, which is another unconventional, subversive, female-driven film, so I wanted to ask you, what are the sort of films that you look for and what drew you specifically to this film?
Raffey Cassidy: I look for a good script. My mum and dad will read it so it’s kind of a trio thing, but all we look for is a good script. I haven’t gone out of my way to find these dark ones, but it just so happens that they’re the best scripts. [The Other Lamb] was something so different — it’s a crazy coming of age story, and I jumped at the chance to be involved in this one because it’s very unusual.
Michiel Huisman: I think you’re showing impeccable taste, looking at the run of the last few releases.
One of the most interesting things I thought about the Shepherd were the touches where you would see sort of a window into the person he was before he became this prophet/cult leader. How much of a backstory did you build out for the character in terms of his pre-cult life?
MH: Everything. Everything. From his childhood to how he grew up, his relationship with his parents, which I think was very troubled, to how the cult must have started. I always believed that it started with good intentions. I think he had maybe narcissistic tendencies, but I do think it started from a good place. He wanted to take care of a woman and then found someone else who needed his help, and it grew slowly. And I like that this movie is not trying to over-explain things. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to know as an actor or have an idea.
I think there’s a lot of versions of this film that would have done a flashback and I feel like that would not have worked.
MH: Yes. Oh my god.
RC: It wouldn’t have been as effective.
MH: But this movie in the hands of a different director would have been a completely different movie. It’s always the challenge of, “How do you pick your next project?” And so I guess I often base it on the script but really the filmmaker is probably even more important than the script and I think she [Małgorzata Szumowska] has proven that.
Did you go through a period where you were watching a bunch of cult documentaries before to prepare?
RC: Yeah, I couldn’t stop! But even before this came into it, I’ve always had a weird fascination with cults. It’s easy to say, “Oh my god, why don’t you just leave?” But it’s something that they believe and that’s all they’ve been taught, they don’t know anything else. I just find that so interesting and fascinating.
Because there’s a big difference between somebody who joins a cult and someone who is born into one, just in terms of what their life experiences are.
MH: Which is why Raffey’s character is so interesting and goes through such a huge transformation. She is born into this cult, she doesn’t know any better.
RC: I think the appeal for people is that it’s like one big family and being in it on set and having all these women around you. I mean, I definitely don’t see the appeal but you can see where people come from, about having this big community, and I guess they just get confused by having that and ignoring the fact of the Shepherd.
Yeah it’s a sense of belonging.
MH: It’s worth so much especially if you haven’t felt like that in a long time which I think especially a lot of the wives who have joined over the years – they’ve found a home. Under the wings of the Shepherd. Until it become oppressive and untenable. The group is also too big at some point, it’s hard to sustain.
You can definitely feel those moments where you’re trying to scramble to keep everything together.
MH: Absolutely! I think he feels that it’s falling apart, he’s losing control, they’re slowly more and more often standing up against him.
Tell me a little bit about the filming experience. It was gorgeous and it felt very remote, so I’m wondering what that was like for you guys. Where was it filmed?
MH: It was all shot in Wicklow, an area very close to Dublin in Ireland, and all within a half-hour radius. There was – I couldn’t believe these locations.
RC: It was very remote, where we were.
MH: And so beautiful. And the lake that is the “I give you paradise” Eden – that’s the Guinness lake. That’s owned by the Guinness family. “I give you paradise – I mean, Guinness!”
RC: That would have been such a good addition actually!
MH: I’m sure we have it in B-roll somewhere. That was at the main camp, where the movie opens and where we live for most of the time until we go on our journey. So that is a holiday rental, you can rent those homes, so I’m secretly hoping that the movie becomes a thingy and people can visit and spend a week there.
RC: Who would want to, after watching the film?!