sábado, 19 de março de 2011

Noise - A review


I won’t try and convince anyone that I have this film all worked out, I didn’t and I don’t. In fact I’m pretty sure I missed some vital links, but I’ll still try and write a review.

Noise is an oddly intriguing film, the feature debut of 41-year-old Matthew Saville, who won some awards with his short film Roy Hollsdotter Live. This is a disturbing, gritty, and unmistakably Australian film.

This is a film of much happening. It has many branches stemming from it, some obviously connected and some not so obvious. Nonetheless all events had an air of significance, even if that significance wasn’t quite clear. To me at least….and the friends that I went with…and hopefully makes me sound less of a dunce.

This is a quiet, thoughtful, intelligent, tricky, dark, sad, painful film. It isn’t simply a cop film showing the dreary tale of life in a crappy job; it’s a story of a man's journey in the slow lane. I’ve heard it said that the only difference between a rut and the grave is the depth….

Noise is set mostly in the working-class Melbourne suburb of Sunshine, which is presumably at least partly ironic, since most of the film takes place at night or in caliginous rooms. In fact colour or lack of colour remains a strong theme throughout the film. It has a strong feel of greyness, almost black, leading to an atmosphere of bleakness. All the scenes are drab, the house with its aged, dull beige 70s décor that adds to the feeling of apathy that grows. Having the majority of scenes in darkened spaces really sets a mood - perhaps a metaphor for how hard it is to see into or understand where people's heads are.

This film’s opening is both skilful and ambiguous. We witness a particularly horrific slaughter on a train where seven people were murdered. The only witness is Lavinia, (Maia Thomas), who’s terrified because the murderer knows her name and address. We see little of what happened, only frightening snippets. In another part of the rail network, a policeman patrols a deserted station. He suddenly collapses on an escalator.

I expected the film to continue in this high-octane way but it doesn't which was both a relief and slightly confusing. This assortment of reactions stayed with me throughout the film. I was uncomfortably trying to make sense of it, determine which themes were important, were they important and if so, how did they fit in?

Police Constable Graham McGann (Brendan Cowell), the officer who collapses at the train station has tinnitus, an affliction that his superior has little sympathy for, ‘You're an idiot if you think that's going to change my roster,’ the senior officer tells him. With petty vindictiveness, he assigns him to ‘light duties’ - two weeks of night shifts manning a police caravan at Sunshine, the scene of a murder of a young woman. McGahan is supposed to collect information from the public in relation to the crime, but very few show up at midnight. He meets a diverse range of characters, including the dead girl’s fiancé, Luke Elliot and regular visits from ‘Lucky’ Phil (Simon Laherty), an inoffensive young man with learning disabilities. It’s a gloomy job, highlighted with apathy by both the constables and the public. Mostly, McGahan just sits there listening to the ringing in his ears. He is incarcerated into a caravan where he’s physically and emotionally isolated.


Margaret Pomeranz interviewed director, Matthew Saville and asked him why the affliction tinnitus was chosen. His answer was:

Because it’s inescapable. The one place you can never get away from is your own head, and I also was really interested in that theme of isolation, because I think it’s sort of an indelible part of our national character in that we’re, as our former Prime Minister so elegantly put it, you know, we’re at the arse end of the world.

As I mentioned before the theme and atmosphere of apathy is prevalent throughout the film, both by the police and the community. Because it’s an Australian film, it felt close to me, sometimes too close, it was unnerving. I was disturbed by seeing so much police apathy. This was a major crime, surely one not seen that often, especially in a small community, yet the response was matter-of-fact and low key. I think this was another issue that disturbed me. I felt the need to be reassured that I could be protected if such a heinous crime involved me, but I wasn’t. But I guess that can be true of life....maybe that's why it was so uncomfortable to watch.....

There were a few comedic points in the plot and some sparkling phrases I wish I could remember. I relished those moments; it gave me time to have a rest from the heaviness of the film.

The film perplexed me. I read numerous reviews afterwards saying it was excellent. I am divided. It was good, very good, but good isn’t enough a descriptive enough word. It doesn’t explain enough. I feel left with a feeling of indecision. There were questions that were unanswered. Branches that didn’t lead to a conclusion. Saying it was depressing isn’t apt enough, that’s too simple. I don’t mind depressing films, I like the challenge of looking beyond a film’s obvious text. I like delving. This film was darkly heavy. It was an intricate story subtly layered with excellent performances. I could see that it was looking at the meaning of life. Or what your life means to you. But its disjointedness meant that it didn’t quite peak for me, but nonetheless it was an affecting film and I think the director achieved some of his aims.

Director Matthew Saville summarises the film:

I just wanted to make a film that celebrated human beings and the fact that even though the world is a difficult place and sometimes it’s easier not to behave well, that we still have an instinct to try to be good and that it’s difficult to remain good. It’s a struggle but we do it and occasionally we succeed and I think that’s noble.


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