We all know that person, the one so obsessed with his own appearance or success he’s completely blind to the experiences or needs of anyone around him. But narcissism isn’t just excessive self-involvement; it’s an actual clinical disorder. First formulated by the American Psychiatric Association in 1968, narcissistic personality disorder is thought to affect one percent of the population.
In filmmaker Eric Casaccio’s case, it wasn’t a psych textbook that introduced him to NPD, but a disastrously failed relationship.
“I met someone during a vulnerable time who came on strong and told me everything I wanted to hear,” he says. “I was a bit skeptical at first but ignored all the red flags. When it ended, I couldn’t understand the pain over something that had lasted only a few months until a friend said it sounded like I’d been abused by someone with NPD.”
Casaccio’s Narcissist provides a surprisingly dreamy, sensual take on abusive relationships. Budding screenwriter Evan (Hunter Lee Hughes) is unceremoniously dumped via video chat by his middle-aged lover Rob (Brionne Davis) and Rob’s new fuckbud Jon (Jonathan Looper). But when things between Rob and Jon quickly sour, Rob tries to lure Evan back into the relationship by making him feel worthless.
Casaccio initially wrote the script solely as a personal therapeutic exercise while recovering from his destructive romance. But a conversation with a fellow filmmaker helped him see its on-screen potential. One year and $6,000 worth of online fundraising later, he stepped on set to start shooting.
“My goal is to inspire others that have suffered post-traumatic stress from having a relationship involving narcissistic abuse,” he says. “During my healing process, I learned why this kind of situation hurts so much. Any victim of narcissistic abuse could spend the rest of their life going over why they were abused. But it’s more important they recognize why they allowed it to happen.”
Narcissist screens as part of the Toronto Queer Arts Festival’s film fest, Sat, Aug 9, 6–10pm, at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St. artsfestival.queerwest.org