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June 5, 2013

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


Synopsis: In a poor suburb of Adelaide, John (Daniel Henshall) insinuates himself into the affections of a broken, dysfunctional family. Blending bouts 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 start to become ever more 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 seen on the big screen in recent times. Kurzel takes recent, tastefully rendered depictions of extreme horror scenarios to their logical conclusions; in a sense, he throws 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 written on the faces of the characters, we even get to see those acts in their own right, no flinching.

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 the full range of their complex psychologies. In some respects, Kurzel has manufactured a complete debunking of the practice of ‘other than one’s self’ character acting. Pittaway and Henshall’s lived-in faces are the story, and it’s so clever how Kurzel’s camera hugs the faces of all the protagonists throughout the film, not just when they are talking or immediately reacting, but sometimes merely bystanders to the seeming focus 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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