The DVD arrived from Australia on Friday. We watched it last night.
Interesting that Becky’s and my reaction to the film almost exactly parallel our reactions to the writer Nick Cave’s music. She thought it was squalid and brutal and, while admiring the make of it, didn’t like it that much.
Me, I thought the film was squalid and brutal, extremely well made, and loved it. There’s a spareness to it, evocative of the vast untracked Australian spaces; and a tension like a thunderstorm, where violence could erupt at any moment. It does. Guy Pearce looks like a greasier and dirtier anti-Aragorn; heads are blown off, people speared, decapitated, flogged.
Into this hell (says the police captain: “Australia. What fresh hell is this?”) comes the civilising faith and hope of the police captain’s wife. What the hell did she think she was doing, coming all that way to desolate lands filled with thieves, murderers, and “savages” intent on killing them? What drove her to emigrate (apart from being married to an emigrant)? There she is, planting her roses in the middle of the desert and through some act of will, making them grow.
This attempt to recreate the familiar seems pathetic and doomed… and yet, we know that people like her mostly succeeded. I wouldn’t be here writing these words if they had not. Today, throughout the New World(s) you will find the familiar and European context, shifted maybe to accommodate local conditions, but recognisable nonetheless.
The Western genre tells us about those first people, the ones driven to the edges of civilisation and aching for (or escaping from) the familiar that they’ve left behind, but there’s a what comes next that I’ve never seen. At what point does the Frontier move on?
Maybe there’s no drama in that.