The setting was intimate as writer Robert Mrazek and actor Treat Williams sat themselves in the front of the small screening room to surrender to the curiosity of the crowd before them.
The credits were still rolling on the screen behind them as they made themselves comfortable in the high director chairs, the audience quiet as they waited for the discussion to begin. The moderator, seated between them, dove right in, asking Mrazek why he chose to write the film, a question Mrazek initially answered with: “I don’t know.” Laughter ensued, and Mrazek seemed to take this time to fully ponder his answer.
Then, he launched into a full speech, beginning with the revelation that he was a “pledge dodger” himself when he was a member of Congress. What does that mean? It means that, while everyone else in the House of Representatives stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, congressman Mrazek was firmly planted in his seat, most likely with his feet propped up on his desk, unyielding to the new rule.
Many other representatives took his actions to be highly disrespectful to the American way, but, according to Mrazek, it was nothing of the sort. “I don’t know that we need to recite a loyalty oath every morning to prove that we love our country,” he said. While the congressman’s name was not wholly spotless before the incident, shortly following it his name was dragged through the mud. And thus, the inspiration for The Congressman was born.
Despite this innately political predicament, however, Mrazek managed to extract the politics from his film and enlarge the problems relatable to many people. “I never saw this as a political movie,” Williams declared when asked his perspective. “It’s about a guy, at a turning point in his life, who’s about my age, who’s going through what I’m going through. For me, it was about a guy who was stuck…the political aspects of it, if I weren’t playing the person, I don’t think they would have been as important.”
The audience doesn’t have to be deeply involved in political life to enjoy this film; from love to loss, from destruction of reputation and the redemption that follows, from feeling lost to finding a home, The Congressman is a movie which explores the life of a man who learns what it means to fight for his beliefs, and how to face the consequences of his actions, no matter how pure his intentions.