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June 5, 2013

Snowtown (2011)
Director: Justin Kurzel
Actors: Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris


Synopsis: John (Daniel Henshall) insinuates his way into a broken, dysfunctional family in a poor suburb of Adelaide. With a mixture of charisma and intimidation, he soon enlists the callow Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) as one of his cronies, and John’s sadistic encounters with various members of the local community get evermore brutal…

Review: Relentlessly bleak in subject matter, but almost perfect in terms of cinematographic execution, Justin Kurzel’s haunting Snowtown is perhaps one of the most convincing and complex portrayals of a malevolent psychotic that I have ever seen on film. Kurzel takes recent tastefully-modulated depictions of extreme/horror scenarios to their logical conclusions – in a sense throwing back those films’ bourgeois evasions in the process – for a simple, crystal-clear documentation of the pure banality of unbelievably savage acts (as well as seeing those acts’ profundity writ on the faces of the characters, we see the acts in their own right).

Kurzel is served brilliantly by his two leads – Lucas Pittaway and Daniel Henshall – and through expression and gesture alone, both actors are able to communicate so much. In some respects, Kurzel has manifested a complete refutation to the practice of ‘other than one’s self’ character acting. Pittaway and Henshall’s lived-in faces are the story, and I love the way that Kurzel’s camera hugs the faces of all the protagonists throughout the film, not just when they are talking or reacting, but sometimes bystanders to the seeming centre of a scene.

If you liked William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, then this film is loosely similar, revealing how an economically and morally deprived area can fall prey to a Faustian figure. But there’s something in Killer Joe‘s aspiration to a form of storytelling classicism, that doesn’t come close to the steadfast and tonally concentric vision of evil in this film. (June 2013)

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