Posts Tagged ‘directing’

The following scenes are taken from the 2005 Australian Western The Proposition, directed by John Hillcoat and written by Nick Cave.

The  scene depicts Mikey Burns being lashed for crimes of rape and murder, cut with scenes of his two brothers, Charlie and Arthur,  and other outlaws deep in outback Australia.

What grabbed me the first time I saw this film, let alone this scene, was the poignancy of all the characters’ stories. In what is portrayed as an uncivilized wasteland, all the characters have carved out enough of a living just to get by. This, along with the sharp juxtapositioning of shocking violence of this world create an engaging conflict.

When I saw this scene for the first time, I felt very uneasy. The beautiful singing Samuel, who turns out to be one of the most violent characters in the film, sets a conflicting, heart wrenching tone to the flogging of Mikey, the most innocent and child-like of all the characters in this film. The music creates connection between the brothers, despite their physical distance and differences.

The mise-en-scene is stunning. The harsh reality of the place is captured in the worn and dusty costumes, the thousands of flies, the endless brown surrounds. Wide angle shots let the viewer become immersed in the world, and the people looking on. It is almost like a close study. You can see the weariness in their eyes, the flies on their backs, the pool of blood splashing onto the ground.

Ultimately the horror of the scene is the moment the music ends. The viewer is plunged straight into the audience of townspeople, watching indifferently the violent punishment. Forty lashes, and blood is being squeezed into the dust. The dull thud of the whip and the incessant counting the only sounds now. The beauty of the singing, the longing and the loneliness, make the real world seem very cruel and bleak.

It’s this violent, captivating scene that is a major turning point in the story. All is lost for Stanley, who is left feeling guilty for punishing a likely innocent man, breaking his promises and finding himself jobless. Charlie, who has struggled in his loyalty to his brother Arthur, has not killed him, breaking his promise. This cruel, indifferent world has reached breaking point, and so have the characters, leading them to their final showdown.

It’s these sorts of scenes that although make me feel very uncomfortable, stay with me for a long time. So bravo, Mr Hillcoat. You’re just lucky Nick Cave found you first.

I decided I wanted to make stories on film around about when I was seventeen; at some stage between filming my friends jumping up and down on a trampoline on a metaphorical musical acid trip and being crushed by a human wall of death whilst recording a local hardcore gig (evidence of both are unfortunately available of YouTube).  I can’t say it was ever a conscious decision, but I began to realize my love for creating stories through film when I started staying up all night and spending all weekend editing school movie projects and drawing storyboards just for the fun of it.

What appeals to me is both the immersion and the economy. With film, unlike any other art form, I have the ability to direct my audience into my own world, the movement, images, music and sound, are all cohesive in creating a world to share with others, no other is quite so sensually engaging . And it can happen so quickly. The power of all those elements together can turn an epic story into a single glance. You can write for pages about a sunset, or a busy street or a dying old man or anything, but nothing compares to taking the audience into your world and giving them the real thing.

First, and foremost, I love writing and telling stories. I have ever since I learned how to write, and my primary school years were filled with ghosts, friendly monsters, one-eyed aliens, thieves and isolated Antarctic communities. I loved the way I could use language to express feeling and images and thoughts. A tree was always more than a tree, every word could be loaded to have many meanings, and there is so much that a reader can imagine and interpret in a good story. It was always a creative challenge I loved doing for as long as I can remember. This just naturally progressed through my years at high school to sounds and moving pictures.

I won’t lie, it’s definitely the spectacle of film which I think triumphed over other storytelling. At school, every kid had to write a short story or a poem at some point. Whether it was any good is up to interpretation, but there wasn’t anything nearly as impressive as being able to dim down the lights, and have everyone absorbed in your creation.  The sounds and colours and images and everything just draw people in, and excite them. They are in your hands until the final credit rolls. This is how I want to share my stories.