by Abhi Parasher

What would happen to the human mind if someone you loved disappeared, and you never got answers? You never got closure. How would you see the world?

That is the question that drove Steven Mihaljevich (The Xrossing) as he embarked on the journey of creating his psychological mystery feature film, Violett.

“I was inspired by the idea of death. Existentialism. Absurdism. Psychology. The Wizard of Oz! And probably much more I don’t even realise yet”, says Mihaljevich. “I listen to a lot of music from a post-rock ambient duo called Hammock. Their music is incredibly visual and emotive and always takes my mind to the deepest of places. It has this extraordinary duality to it – an aching feeling of both celebration and death. It ignites my soul and always inspires.”

Violett follows a series of strange child disappearances that have left the rural town of Miles in a state of disbelief, causing a sick mother, Sonya (Georgia Eyers), to fear that unspeakable evil will soon snatch her 11-year-old daughter, Violett (Valentina Blagojevic), from her sight.

“Everything that happens in the film is from the perspective of our protagonist, a mentally sick mother, Sonya. All of her dreams, desires, fears, anxieties, and fantasies play out in different colours and represent the various shades of her mind,” says Mihaljevich. “There is this theme in the film that ‘nothing ever dies…. it only changes form’.  This relates to her childhood trauma as well; we carry our demons with us, and so Sonya has already created her fate more or less.  She is also trying desperately to regain her memory and find answers.”

Violett often relies on drip-feeding information to the audience without giving away too much, which was a challenge for the filmmaker.

“The moment viewers predict it all, they become cynical, so it is vital to keep unravelling the mystery whilst building to several twists, but also give the audience something to come back to,” he explains. “To me, Violett is more of a psychological mystery than anything else; it is supposed to feel like an ambient puzzle, inside the mind of someone who is also unveiling a puzzle. At times, it is also a bit embellishing; the atmosphere could swallow you up. But yes, finding that balance between allowing the audience to engage and connect, while also leaving enough clues so that they do not feel cheated, was a very intricate process at times for me as writer/director/editor.”

The film could also be classified as a horror, and according to Mihaljevich, the horror elements in Violett demand attention.

“Horror is personal; both from the creators P.O.V and to the viewers, which makes it incredibly addictive and even cathartic. There is an undeniable immediacy and razor grip that compels people to watch it, even if they don’t really enjoy it. It’s quite bizarre really. But it also has an existential quality that can be confronting.”

Even though Mihaljevich aimed to make a ‘genre’ film, he never let go of the beating heart—the human story was always in the driver’s seat of his creative journey.

“I wanted to make a film that, despite its genre, there was a very strong human foundation at its core,” says Mihaljevich. “Violett is more unsettling and provoking than it is frightening, but it is also quite tragic – so, hopefully it evokes an intensity and feeling for audiences to discuss and ponder.”

With Violett recently enjoying its Australian premiere at the A Night of Horror (ANOH) International Film Festival, Mihaljevich has one foot in the present, and one in the future.

“I would love the chance to see what I could do with a moderate budget. I love Perth, I love the people I work with, and I would love to keep making films here with similar crews. I have about 8 or 9 scripts exploding in my mind, ready to be made, but it is not always the films you want to make most that you end up making next. There are so many variables to it. In saying that, green lighting a film is no easy feat and just getting the chance to make one is a great honour. I think we should treat each film we make like that, even though I wish I could make more!”