Ingrid Jungermann on her film ‘Women Who Kill,’ lesbian stereotypes, art, and identity

Ingrid Jungermann’s film Women Who Kill  has been called “murderously smart and funny” by The Hollywood Reporter and a  “wicked little horror-comedy about podcasting, female serial killers, and Park Slope food co-ops” by New York Magazine. AfterEllen first reviewed the film back in 2015, and again very recently in this article,  because we can’t get enough. AE writer Karen Frost described it as “a satire painted with a rainbow-colored indie brush with horror lurking in the shadows. It is, in short, one of the most subversively hilarious lesbian movies I’ve ever seen.”

It’s also a movie that leaves you wanting to crawl inside the filmmaker’s head and just hang out in there for a while. I was lucky enough to sort of do that – I spoke with Jungermann and asked the questions you may also be wondering when you watch this film, and you absolutely need to watch this film.  I know you made a web series called The Slope, and then your hit show “F to 7th,” but  my introduction to your work was this movie, Women Who Kill. I was instantly hooked minutes in, and it is seriously one of the best films I’ve seen in a while. So I first want to say thank you for making this, as lesbians are hungry for excellent lesbian films, as you must know. And it’s rather unusual, too. What inspired this particular story?

Ingrid Jungermann: Thanks for your response to the film. It’s always a dream to have someone untie all those neurotic details you’ve hunched over for weeks and months and sometimes years. You hope that someone out there is willing to pick up the crumbs, follow the maze through your brain, make it to the end and feel like they went somewhere.

The best compliment is to call it unusual or peculiar. I suppose peculiarity inspired it, being an outsider. I was standing outside of myself looking back on all my relationships, wondering why I couldn’t make them work. Most of my experiences in love felt like circles in squares. So I wanted to explore that, and that took me to some very funny, very dark places.

AE: You’ve told other media outlets that you don’t mind at all being categorized as a lesbian filmmaker. Do you feel it helps rather than hinders your career?

IJ: I don’t think it’s a question of helping or hurting. In fact, I feel like I sounded like a jerk in that article. But I do have a certain impish pride in labels these days. Moving through the labeling process, I’ve learned that how other people define me can’t be the core of who I am. Only how I define me can be the core. Is it lonely and dangerous and painful? Yes, but it’s also beautiful and enlightening and important. I guess all that anti-identity politics bullshit enraged and inspired me. Rage often inspires me.

AE: I love the way you aren’t afraid to just “go there” with lesbian stereotypes. I know some women will say we should work to overcome these stereotypes, but I personally love that we can laugh at ourselves. What are your thoughts on that, and is it something you consider, or do you think we should just accept art as art without inserting our identities?

IJ: I don’t know what art is without inserting our identities. For me, it’s a conversation between the filmmaker and the audience. I’m inserting my identity, so I would hope the audience is doing the same. Other filmmakers may not agree, but I feel a responsibility to the eyes on the screen.

AE:  At the end of the film, and I won’t give spoilers, but at the end when your character says “I’ve hurt some people” (I think those were the exact words, anyway) my friend and I had a long discussion about how we don’t trust people so much sometimes, for fear of being hurt, we end up being the ones who hurt them. Then I read somewhere that this was more of a nod to the “bury your gays” trope. Of course it could be both. Obviously the only way to know is to just ask you! 🙂

IJ: I tried to make everything in my movie “both.” Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I failed. Tropes are boring if you’re not also commenting on them. That line was meant as an overall theme of the film and a consequence of a self-absorbed person who responds out of fear rather than love; it was also meant to give a little insight into the question of is Simone/isn’t Simone a murderer. Who, by the end of the film, does the most damage?

AE: I read the scissors and the nail clippings as symbols for lost loves, and personal baggage. Is that accurate?

IJ: This film is out there for you to trust your conclusions. So, yes. And it’s also a symbol of vulnerability, of domesticity; it is also a joke on lesbian “safe” sex.

Morgan (Ingrid Jungermann) and her girlfriend Simone (Sheila Vand) kiss goodbye, unaware that their relationship is about to take a turn for the worse. (Photo credit: Diane Russo)

AE: This is a related question to the last one. Since we can’t ignore the entire logical arch of the story being centered around a serial killer, (plus, she IS there at the house with that box) how much of the film is meant to be pure metaphor and how much of it is meant to be literal? How do you navigate between the parallel interpretations?

IJ: I attempted to both tell an entertaining story and write a 95-page metaphor. Did I make it hard on myself? Certainly. I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. But I can’t help it. I have this need to both write a story that upholds my responsibility to the form, and write code for those who speak my language. Perhaps it has something to do with growing up in a place where it wasn’t okay to be queer, so I learned to fit in. I was lucky enough to be able to tell a good joke; I could play sports. But films and books and poetry exposed secrets that spoke to me, that reminded me that the hidden me wasn’t alone.

AE: What can we be excited about next? Are you working on any other projects you’d like to share?

IJ: I’ve written a satirical lesbian rom com in development at QC Entertainment. They also produced GET OUT, so they have a real eye for satire, commentary and dark comedy.

Ingrid Jungermann is the writer, director, and star of “Women Who Kill.” Ingrid co-created the web series THE SLOPE and created the WGA-Nominated web series F TO 7TH, featuring Amy Sedaris, Michael Showalter, Gaby Hoffmann, Olympia Dukakis and Janeane Garofalo. Her work has screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Festival, Outfest and BFI London.

Women Who Kill won numerous film festival awards, including Best Screenplay at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. The film is available for sale and rental on Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, as well as DVD and Blu-ray.

Synopsis: Commitment phobic Morgan (Jungermann) and her ex-girlfriend Jean (Ann Carr) are locally famous true crime podcasters obsessed with female serial killers. There’s a chance they may still have feelings for each other, but co-dependence takes a back seat when Morgan meets the mysterious Simone (Sheila Vand) during her Food Co-op shift. Blinded by infatuation, Morgan quickly signs up for the relationship, ignoring warnings from friends that her new love interest is practically a stranger. When Jean shows Morgan proof that Simone may not be who she says she is, Morgan accuses Jean of trying to ruin the best thing that’s ever happened to her. But as she and Simone move into commitment territory, Morgan starts to notice red flags – maybe Jean was right and Simone isn’t as perfect as Morgan’s made her out to be.

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