The follow film is an addition to my list ‘Cinema of the Abstract’. All films that have this piece at the top with have an ‘Abstract’ Rating and a personal score at the end. For more information on this peculiar scoring system, and what the ‘Cinema of the Abstract’ list is, follow this link – Cinema of the Abstract
Teacher John Grant (Gary Bond) is on his way to Sydney only to be stuck in the town of Bundanyabba, his hostile and smug attitude to the culture of the Australian outback questioned through the turmoil that take place when he is unable to leave. Once the effects of the alcohol he drinks takes its toll on his sense of time and place, this very good dramatic film becomes a rediscovered gem from Australian cinema, both a hellish depiction of the culture, but also one which never damns it completely. It certainly shows a side of Australia which, knowing a small bit of the film’s history, horrified and unsettled people in the country when it was first shown, but it presents Grant’s downward spiral as one where there only thing these characters he encounters have – especially Donald Pleasence in a tremendous performance – is alcohol to numb away their anxieties. The effect of the continuous drinking causes the film itself to enter the drunken dreamstate of the characters, forcing us to see them puke, brawl and blackout, culminating into the infamous kangaroo slaughter sequence in which the director Ted Kotcheff, a Canadian whose eye for the landscape is both beautiful but also shows its desolation, followed professional hunters and shows the actual killing of the animals. (Probably the reason why, sadly, this great film may not be available in the UK unless it’s a rights issues. After the documentary Not Quite Hollywood (2008), many people including myself first heard about of the film from it and desperately wanted to see it).
In just 90 or so minutes, set in an odd depiction of Australia (at Christmas which, setting Christmas trees against the blazing hear of the environment, twists the environment further through the real seasonal climate of the country), and including moments that blur reality (such as the nightmarish montage in the final act), it creates a film where the word ‘fright’ in the title deserves to be there. That the ending, without spoiling it, is how it is is perfect; some might see it as a cop-out, but it makes sense. Forced into an alcohol soaked reality where the days blur, the protagonist and we the viewer realise that our complacency and the selfish hatred of others we can have, even if parts of it is justified, is meaningless when we trap ourselves in a destructive spiral of our own fault, fuelled by beer or not. All the protagonist had to do was limit his drinking, and in a major plot event, practice self control, and he would have avoided what happened to him. But, with my tongue in my cheek, that would mean this great film wouldn’t exist.
Abstract Rating (High/Medium/Low) – Low
Personal Rating – 8 out of 10