It’s been over a year since selected members of the press were given a chance to see Tom Six’s The Onania Club. While many other films were delayed in that time due to the global pandemic, Six’s film has fallen foul of the distributors who don’t want to risk putting out what they think is a movie that is too controversial. With The Human Centipede series behind him, has Tom Six gone too far? We caught up with him to find out what’s going on…
STARBURST: What was the inspiration for The Onania Club?
Tom Six: The Onania Club is a very dark satire about the fucked-up world we live in today and combines three huge fascinations of mine. First: human psychology and what the philosopher Schopenhauer called the evilest human emotion, schadenfreude [taking pleasure in the misery of others]. In The Onania Club, I made the ‘taking pleasure’ sexual; literally getting off on the misery of others. Secondly: dictators and the evil elites throughout history. I combined the elites with schadenfreude. The rich elites getting off on the common (wo)man. And third: film noir films from the ‘40s and ‘50s. The nihilism, style, and the femme fatales. I chose a group of elite women because women rule the world. The power of the pussy is unparalleled. Like The Human Centipede films, The Onania Club combines a very strong basic concept with social commentary layers. From easy recognizable, to deep and hidden, and to Easter eggs. The film has a lot of subliminal messages too, from one frame images to other tricks I won’t spoil.
Despite the impression some people have, we feel the film is less ‘offensive for the sake of being offensive’ and has a valid point to make about society - that people have become so desensitised to violence and suffering that they actively seek more to gain pleasure. Is there a worry that this applies to film fans too?
Reality is far more offensive than fiction will ever be and because of the Internet, we see more misery than ever before from all over the world. Videos of real torture, breaking news stories of disasters. A celebrity’s cancer story is placed in the entertainment section. We all can’t seem to get enough of it. Although the value of shock is very powerful, I am not actively trying to shock. It just comes naturally with the subjects of my films. The Onania Club takes on conspiracy theories, the hypocrisy of religion, child abuse, racism, obsession with celebrities, medical experiments, etc. The film is a real debate starter. Believe it or not, all the shocking scenes in the film are based on real-life events. It is not my sick mind, it is the sick world that I am showing and I put up a mirror to society. I want to bring back danger to cinema and not make it so easy to swallow. It will make people uncomfortable, but that is not my problem. I would be lying if said that I do not enjoy that discomfort, though.
The film has been ready for some time now, what has been the problem getting distribution?
The truth is that no serious distributor in the Western world wants to release The Onania Club. I just can’t believe that after the pop culture status success of The Human Centipede, they all just turned their back on me. They come up with all kinds of false lies like “the market has changed”, outright censorship like “we don’t think your film is suitable for our audiences” to totally ignoring it. In today’s overly sensitised world, distributors have a huge fear of being cancelled or critiqued and are so afraid to offend that they take the road of least resistance, which is basically choosing child-safe mediocrity and remakes above challenging and original content. 90% of movies that are being made are just mediocre noise. I think that if we do not stop that trend, it will be the death of provocative cinema and its creators. Top critics all over the world called The Onania Club a masterpiece, test audiences went wild after seeing it and fans are begging me every day to release it. It is mind-blowing. The same thing happened with first The Human Centipede, at first distributors told me that nobody in the world would want to see something like that and promised me it would never see the light of day. I proved them all wrong. I know the visionary fuck what I am doing!
Could it be that the distributors didn’t bother to watch the film - or didn’t ‘get it’?
Some are so arrogant they don’t even bother to watch my film because they already have a pre-biased idea of a ‘Tom Six film’, others just do not get it and don’t understand satire. I know The Onania Club will be debated, enjoyed or hated for decades to come. It will have longevity and reach a huge audience.
There are films that are more explicit still being released, do you feel the distributors are just afraid of you?
These films are explicit in a different way, a more acceptable way. I dare to travel to unexplored territories and show how evil mankind really can be, which can be very uncomfortable. To this day I get so many death threats for making The Human Centipede trilogy, people want me in jail or in a mental institution. While others have The Human Centipede tattoos or write extensive university papers about it. It inspired so many other artists, it entered the world of sports, media, politics and has become pop culture. The Onania Club will have that effect too.
Is there hypocrisy and snobbery in the film world? For example, if The Onania Club had been made in a foreign language or by a ‘respected’ director, would it have been treated differently? When a film like Pasolini’s Salò is held in high regard while yours is suppressed is crazy.
I bet if Lars von Trier, Jordan Peele, or the late Pasolini would have made this film, it would be the most talked-about film in Cannes for sure and the film elites would be falling over each other to tell the world what a visionary director he is. I am a unique and visionary filmmaker and I say that with confidence. How many filmmakers are left that are 100% uncompromising and bring subversiveness and danger to cinema? Who are not afraid to take huge risks and cross boundaries? The film elites pretend to be ‘disgusted’ by my work and rather applaud child safe movies, but secretly they are the biggest perverts behind closed doors and I know my work is a great topic at their Hollywood private dinner parties.
We feel there’s been a step back in society over the past few years, and the Covid pandemic and Brexit here in the UK has brought out the worst in some people, which to us highlights some of the points you make in the film. Has the world gotten even nastier than The Onania Club?
Covid exposes the true character of mankind. People who wondered how WW2 could happen are now turning into Nazi’s who want to take away your freedom and report people who think differently. At the same time, there are people intentionally exposing others to Covid and hope to make them sick. Concerning the world’s elites, you immediately see them taking on more power and privileges and enriching themselves more in this time of misery. They even tell you from their luxury vacation homes on tropical islands only reachable by private jets that you should cancel your holiday plans for the safety of others. Mankind is corrupt and evil and that will never change.
What do you say to the people who think that you just make sick films?
People are entitled to their opinions. I don’t mind. Some only see the ‘sickness’ of the films and call it dumb, while the smart ones see the social commentary. I understand that people are disgusted by the idea of being attached mouth to anus, but to me, the main theme of The Human Centipede part 1 is the God-complex of doctors. Part 2 is about child abuse and part 3 is about the American prison system. After the release of The Human Centipede 2, I was asked to participate in an extensive psychological test by medical students. In short, I was diagnosed with hyperfantasia, being a ‘chronic out-of-the-box thinker’ and burdened with a 157 IQ.
What have you got planned for the future?
If The Onania Club does not get a decent release, then no investor will ever give me money for a new movie again. So basically, my whole career depends on it because I have a spine and will never adapt to making mass-pleasing, safe remakes and mediocre dull cinema. Life is too short when you have a unique talent for coming up with so many original film ideas. I literally live for making films and am totally obsessed. I don’t have kids, I consider my movies my children and I fight like a lion for them. Life to me has no meaning if I cannot continue making movies. To me, this is a fight to the death. If a smart and visionary distributor wakes up and releases The Onania Club, I’ll immediately start shooting a movie called Enjoy, another pitch-black satire and I’ve written over 10 very original and challenging films, which will definitely have the world talking.
Find out more about Tom Six and his films at https://www.sixentertainmentcompany.com/
Our review of The Onania Club is here. Who knows when the film will be released? Share your frustration at not being able to see it by Tweeting #releasetheonaniaclub