New Mockumentary

Booted out of Hell, meet the new Satan: influencer, lover, guru, LA dude
By Caroline Gaimari | 6 March 2023

Man, myth, or mystery, Satan is a controversial figure that has dominated thought for centuries. And now, the horned demon is the subject of a new film Mind Body & Soul by writer and filmmaker Robert Lang.

Actor Conr Kinman takes on the antichrist role, doused in red with that el diablo smile. But far from the fire and fury character fed to us in classic literature and art, in Mind Body & Soul, Satan has been booted out of Hell and is currently living in LA. Having always had his story told by others, now he’s ready to set the record straight as he goes on a path of reinvention, rebranding, while figuring out who he really is and who he wants to be. Inviting the documentary crew into his home (a la MTV Cribs), we see Satan on his path to redemption, 2023-style. He’s on Instagram, he’s got a PA, he’s publishing a book on the Satanic Yoga method he’s developed. He’s the devil and he’s totally LA. 

Using ‘factual’ history, and flashback imagery to show how the most infamous figure in history came to be, Mind, Body & Soul uses humour and wit to delve into notions of social media, spirituality, self-love, hope and community. I wanted to humanise him and go from the perspective that maybe he’s just a little misunderstood,” says Lang below. “At one point, we see him in front of a painting of him eating all these humans and he’s just like, “I have been falsely depicted through my times. This never happened. I’ve never eaten the babies, you know?”

Caroline Gaimari: How the hell are you? I feel like that’s how the devil would start this interview.
Robert Lang: I actually had a dream that I had a conversation with the devil and I can say that it was… What’s the word? Terrifying. I remember waking up and being like, OK, this is not how I expected that would go. I thought we would have, like, a nice conversation, but it just didn’t go that way.

CG: You made a feature film about Satan and you didn’t anticipate him coming to haunt you?
RL: When you’re dealing with this type of subject matter, you’re like, “Oh, am I tapping into something that I shouldn’t be?” But I figured if we were respectful about the whole process then nothing bad would really happen. But I ended up being accidentally set alight while we were filming. It wasn’t while we were on set; I was dressed as Pazuzu from The Exorcist and I was at a party and accidentally set myself alight. Then the following day, the fire alarm kept going off. And then one night during filming I woke up and a ghost came and tapped me up my toes. There were just too many things happening for it all to be a coincidence.

CG: Maybe Satan didn’t like how he was being depicted.
RL: The starting point for this movie was how we all understand these depictions of ‘Satan’. A lot of films about him are so cliché, where he’s this big man-baby going around making trouble. I wanted to take a more intellectual approach. So I got lost in the research, everything down to his fashion sense. For example, in the 1500s he was originally depicted in blue. For this film, I landed on his 19th-century look with the traditional red.

CG: What story does this film tell?
RL: About how in order to be loved, you’ve got to love yourself first. So instead of trying to make everyone like you, why don’t you just be yourself? That was the running theme from the beginning to the end. The film starts with Satan introducing himself to a documentary crew interested in filming him; he interacts with them with a certain fakeness in the hopes of getting them to like him but he ends up coming off like an awkward nerd.

I ended up being accidentally set alight while we were filming…”

CG: So visually, you approached this like a documentary?
RL: Yeah. I worked with people who normally work on documentaries. I had to cut corners because I financed the whole thing myself – let’s be honest, no one was going to produce this. So I was like, OK, it’s either I’m going to buy a house at some point or I’m going to make a film about Satan. And I chose to make the film about Satan. So I guess I’m going to be renting for a few more years.

CG: But if this film succeeds, it’s basically the devil that will be buying you a home. You have made a deal with the devil, who you are telling me is kind of a try hard?
RL: Pretty much. The shots kind of dip in and out of him being unaware of when he is and isn’t being filmed. When he’s aware that he’s being filmed, he is putting on a very fake persona. And when he’s not being filmed, we get a glimpse of his true self: the Satan that wants to publish his book on the Satanic Yoga method he developed and believes can help people. While trying to get some momentum for the book, he gets discouraged by the personal assistant he’s hired, Mimi Wilde [Melissa Bergland], telling him that, “Everyone’s got a book, everyone’s got a Netflix documentary about themselves.” He sees that as the way to spread the word these days: start a movement and become a guru. So he tries to become a guru by getting on social media to spread his message because that’s where everyone gathers nowadays. He has to do the dance of being relatable, so he joins social media which ends up not working out so well for him.

CG: The best place that the devil could think to hone his personal brand was Instagram?
RL: The idea was riffing on how celebrities come along to tell us how to live our lives as these sort of modern gurus. It’s not authentic so people eventually turn on them. The celebrity will say something that isn’t PC and then have to make The Apology. And it’s always the very standard apology that they all say, “I will do better.” Satan himself finds himself sucked into the whole unrealistic vortex of social media.

He has to do the dance of being relatable, so he joins social media which ends up not working out so well for him.”

CG: What was the spark that made this film come about?
RL: During the pandemic, we were just so bored. With my friend Conr Kinman — who ended up playing Satan — we were like, “What can we do?” He came up with the idea for us to make these little shorts and eventually we landed on Satan somehow. The project started as a three-minute short about Satan reintroducing himself into society, MTV Cribs-style, where Satan is giving a very brief introduction to his life. It turned out pretty funny and I was inspired to make it into a full feature mockumentary because it felt like there was more story to tell. I wrote 40 pages and I was like, let’s just do it. So I showed people this sort of pilot I had made and was able to get a great team together.

CG: Who are the other characters?
RL: There’s Melchom and Mimi. Melchom is from Hell as well, he is the General Treasurer of Hell and a real deeply mythological demon. He comes along and ends up becoming Satan’s assistant. It doesn’t really work out.

CG: Just two guys from Hell, chilling on Earth.
They get locked out of Hell because the powers that be started to think that Satan had turned soft. So they’re like, “You do not represent who we are and who we’d like to be. So see you later.” There is a portal to Hell in Satan’s house, that’s how he gets in and out. In reality, there was a downstairs basement with a crawl space at the house we were shooting in. So we used that as the portal to hell.

CG: And who is Mimi?
RL: Mimi Wilde is this charlatan PR who answers an advert to become Satan’s personal assistant and take over his image renaissance. Mimi is actually based on a real-life fake PR person working at a firm called Legit PR that I invented to promote my last photobook because I couldn’t afford a legit PR. I was like, well, why don’t I make her a real person who can help Satan with his image problems?

CG: I love that you moonlight as a female PR.
I had to shutter my ‘PR firm’ when I started getting inquiries about repping other people. But Mimi lives on in this film.

CG: The actors really brought these characters to life.
I couldn’t have done it without Conr because he brought charisma to it. Melissa Bergland, who plays Mimi is the funniest person and most talented actress; I wrote the character with her in mind. This was Eric Wu’s — who plays Melchom — first role. He did miming and clowning classes to prepare for this because his character had no lines and his face was completely covered. He was dressed in a cape and gugel costume so he had to use body language and movements to convey his thoughts and emotions. I was impressed how I could just tell him the setup and then he would create this moment with only his body language.

There is a portal to Hell in Satan’s house, that’s how he gets in and out.”

CG: Are you afraid of crossing hairs with any religious groups with this film?
The one thing I didn’t want to do was make a film about religion. I didn’t want to put all these jabs in there about Christianity, which I felt would have been tacky. I want to be respectful of people’s religions and beliefs. It’s a modern take on a film about Satan that is trying to be respectful to everybody, including Satan. Years ago, I went to a screening for the documentary on the Satanic Temple called Hail Satan! Now, I don’t plan on becoming a Satanist, but I really liked how they were all about community. I liked the values that they had and I thought it would be interesting to translate that into film. I got so fascinated by Satan – to the point where I was worried that I was on the Satanist pipeline. Because although I’m not religious at all, I’m, like, agreeing with some of the values that they work toward. When I was talking to friends about what I was learning, they were just like, “Can we just stop talking about Satanism?”

CG: Did you weave a lot of historical elements into the Satan character?
RL: I try to sum up a lot of my research in the first ten minutes so the audience is up to speed on where our Satan is on his journey. I show how Christianity really created the idea and visual concept of the devil and how he was first depicted in the 6th century when he was this blue sort of ‘fallen angel.’ Eventually over the period of a few hundred years, his whole character and how he looked changed and he evolved into this terrifying monster. Over different periods, he’s depicted as more human-like or more angel-like. And then he became more demonic. And then in the 20th century, he became more like an ever-present force.

CG: And Satan is hoping that this documentary will help set the record straight? RL: I also wanted to educate people about all of the mythology around Satan. If I’m going to make a film that is so steeped in history  — he’s one of the most historically hated figures in the world — I wanted to humanise him and go from the perspective that maybe he’s just a little misunderstood. At one point, we see him in front of a painting of him eating all these humans and he’s just like, “I have been falsely depicted through my times. This never happened. I’ve never eaten babies.”

CG: It’s difficult to turn around your image when you’re known as a baby-eater.
Right? Satan himself has always been seen as a charlatan. And then, by trying hard to ‘fit in’, he basically becomes the person that everyone expects him to be: this false, phoney deceiver. He’s trying not to be a deceiver; he’s trying to change his image so that people can relate to him, understand him, learn from him…

CG: And hopefully buy his book.
RL: Well, he needs to make money because life on Earth ain’t cheap. The book is filled with his spiritual messages and teachings. I actually printed the book and will start selling it. The rollout of the film is timed so that he’s kind of going through the process as if it’s being filmed right now. There’s a meta-level to it, closing the gap between mockumentary and documentary. I’m trying to match up the rollout of the film to when the book comes out. So Satan is very much in his pre-cancellation Instagram era right now.

Follow Robert Lang on Instagram.
Mind, Body & Soul will be out later this year.


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