What is the main problem with films based on real-life killers? For various reasons, many storytelling under the guise of “psychic exploration” actually fall into the realm of glorification. As one of the most popular names, it is clear that the glorification of Ted Bundy’s actions is often brought up, and does not escape similar problems. He is a monster with cruelty that is seen as attractive, cool, “sexy”.
We need a different “voice,” and through No Man of God, director Amber Sealey has that voice. The voice of a female filmmaker, who saw Bundy’s brutality in raping and killing 30 women (a number he admits, though the exact figure may be more), is pure disgust that shouldn’t be celebrated. Top Movie Site
The script by Kit Lesser (pen name C. Robert Cargill, author of Sinister and Doctor Strange), is based on transcripts of Bundy’s conversations with FBI agent Bill Hagmaier from 1984 to 1989. Hagmaier (Elijah Wood) is a young agent tasked with profiling assassins, conduct interviews to find out what’s on their minds. Bundy (Luke Kirby) becomes his newest target.
Since being arrested in 1975, Bundy has always refused to admit his actions. But unlike previous agents, Hagmaier tries to treat Bundy like a “normal” human being. Not the devil, not the mentally ill. After some time, their relationship grew closer, to the point that Bundy referred to Hagmaier as a friend.
The big misconception that writers often do is make Ted Bundy a monster figure. A bigger-than-life creature full of elusive darkness. That’s where the glorification takes place, whether intentional or not. No Man of God, on the other hand, positioned Bundy as an ordinary human. Not special.
Bundy felt he was special. As Hagmaier believed after their first meeting, Bundy was reluctant to confess, but implied he wanted the FBI to know that he had committed all the murders. He wants to be seen as great, extraordinary, big, dominant. No Man of God’s achievement lies in successfully disarming the killer myth. That behind his confidence and intimidating aura, Bundy was nothing more than a rotten man. A pathetic loser, lost in confusion, loses control of himself as the day of his execution on January 24, 1989 approaches. Best Movie
Bundy is not special, and because of that the action can be done by anyone. Including Hagmaier, who is described as religious. He regularly prays, even a cross hangs in his car. But the deeper he dives into Bundy’s psyche, the clearer it becomes that humans are still humans. Servant of God or not, when his mind falters (or can be called “faith” if you use a religious perspective), that dark desire can rise.
Unfortunately, the No Man of God script has never been so deep in digging into the protagonist’s head. We know he’s found an understanding of Bundy, we know slowly the temptation to walk the “path of darkness” begins to creep in, but exactly what that psychic dynamic looks like, which point acts as a trigger, tends to blur. The audience is only invited to “know”, not really “understand”.
Lasting about 100 minutes, No Man of God spends the majority of the time presenting chatter in a cramped interrogation room (perhaps some of you will think this film is based on a theatrical performance). Sealey is keen to adjust the dynamics through his direction, adjusts the tempo so that the intensity is consistent, knows exactly what to highlight “what” and “when” through his camera.
Sealey’s directing is like a rail. Tends to be subtle, aiming to keep the film on track, then letting the two main performers take center stage. Kirby’s version of Bundy reminds me of people who like to talk “tall”, are good at acting, act cool, in order to hide their real small figure. Meanwhile, Wood looks good showing a man who believes he is good, pious, but is actually very fragile. Yes, there is a parallel between the two sides.
One of the most notable moments was when in the middle of shooting for a religious-themed event, where Bundy was being interviewed about his motives for killing, Sealey turned his attention to the face of the show’s assistant. A woman. He was silent, but his face was filled with anger. His hands gripped the clipboard tightly, as if to channel suppressed emotions. Maybe that was Sealey’s honest reaction, when he saw his fellow filmmakers glorify Ted Bundy’s actions. Movie Review