The Proposition at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > And Now, For Something Completely Different... > Awake In The Dark

Awake In The Dark
What you're watching these days on the Big Screen and the Small Screen.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old June 5th, 2006, 11:26 AM   #1
Air China Pilot
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Vancouver, B.C.
Posts: 2,389
The Proposition

Best film I've seen in ages and now at the top of my best westerns list.

In the Australian outback, a handful of bandits are taken prisoner by a police captain intent on bringing civilization to a dirt scrabble frontier. Among the bandits is a lanky, dark haired man played by Guy Pearce ("LA Confidential", "Memento") and his younger brother - a simpleton. The police captain - Ray Winstone ("Sexy Beast") - has a proposition for Pearce: go kill his older brother, an even more notorious desperado who has attacked and brutally wiped out a family. If Pearce doesn't do it in five days, the younger brother will hang on Christmas Day.

With that set up more traditional movies would follow Pearce's mission into the outback from just his point of view, but writer Nick Cave (yes, the Nick Cave from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) and director John Hillcoat have made this into an ensemble piece with an outstanding cast. Ray Winstone is excellent as perhaps the one man on the frontier who has an elevated sense of justice. His wife, the pale and pretty Emily Watson, is a good woman who has a driving but ultimately tragic need to avenge the rape and death of her friend. David Wenham, who most audiences last saw as Faramir in "The Return of the King" is a simpering cold-blooded bureaucrat for whom death is an administrative decision. Along the way Pearce will bump into a crazy, outlandish bounty hunter played deliciously by John Hurt. Eventually he will find his brother - a mystical figure of terror played by Danny Huston. All are uniformly excellent.

This is one of those films where the beauty is both in the setting and in the shocking actions of humans. Humans stumble, sit, ride against the awesome golden-red vistas of the Australian outback. And they shoot each other - they stab each other - do inhuman things to each other because they are beasts or the world has made them do these things. Blood flows freely and shockingly so even as the dread makes you expect it. The characters brutish ways are contrasted with their earnest need for poetry and spirituality; some of them want love. Some of them have seen an abyss in the stark desert.

The theme of the film is the vagaries of justice. How one man's justice is in a unique proposition; a woman's justice is to see anger redressed to anyone; a bureaucrat's justice is perfunctory order; and no one seeks justice for the aboriginals whose bodies litter the outer frames of the film. You know you are in for something unique when the first words on the screen are a disclaimer - almost an apology - to aboriginal viewers warning them that they will see images of their dead from photos (and perhaps from the images in the story). But there is no apology for the audience.

Fantastic, amazing film. Don't miss it.
__________________
--
Visit http://www.KeithLoh.com | stuff about living in Vancouver | My Flickr photo gallery
Keith Loh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 5th, 2006, 01:59 PM   #2
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 108
Aww, Keith, ya beat me to it!

Just saw this saturday night... loved it. (read up on it in this month's American Cinematographer, too).

From the technical side... some stunning cinematography. There's a scene where Guy Pearce is talking with John Hurt in a dark cabin. The lighting on Pearce is simply amazing; sounds cliched, but it looks like a rembrandt painting; look at the modeling around his eyes... it looks almost like rough brushstrokes. Really took my breath away (and wow, no CG at all to make me gasp, imagine that) A scene midway through, where the brothers watch a sunset; gorgeous again. (and you'll note that the light is "wrong" here, it's not head-on as it would be, but still looks totally motivated... just dead-perfect lighting).

This is an unrelentingly dark and very violent flick (when the lights came up, I said to my GF, "It's the feel-good movie of the summer!") For you screenwriters out there, it's a great exercise in minimalist dialogue and little exposition; the character's motivations and reaction's aren't spoon-fed to you, and I imagine different viewers will have different opinions on those (why did Captain Stanley apologize to his wife after she fainted? She wanted the kid to be whipped and stayed to watch, even after she was warned. I was expecting "I told you so", yet real-life is full of moments like these, where actions feel "right" even when they're unexpected and unexplained. Because his mission was all about protecting her, and his town, from violence and bloodshed? Because that particular bloodbath was in the name of justice, administered by his own men? And so on.)

Some viewers hate this sort of approach, myself, I find it vastly refreshing.

Great visual symbolism as well, especially Stanley's fenced-off garden in the midst of the vast desert. Really shows the futility of his "I will civilize this land" attitude.

My favorite scene was when Emily Watson is in the bath, shot from behind; the camera moves down to the water droplets on her shoulder as she describes a dream, the drops of clear water on her bare skin such a contrast to the sand, mud, and clouds of flies we've seen up to then... and a slow rack-focus exposes her hands, rising from the water as she relates the key moment of the dream. Wanna-be directors will see plenty of "damn, that guy's good" moments. And great performances all around, especially Pearce, who does wonders with little dialogue.

A lot of pre-(US) release (this is already on import DVD from down under) website reviews considered the film too "slow"; I don't think there were many wasted frames. Overall, it's a meditation on good and evil, and how fine the line between can be. It's also one violent and bloody flick. Really dug it.
Michael Carter is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 5th, 2006, 02:57 PM   #3
Air China Pilot
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Vancouver, B.C.
Posts: 2,389
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Carter
For you screenwriters out there, it's a great exercise in minimalist dialogue and little exposition; the character's motivations and reaction's aren't spoon-fed to you, and I imagine different viewers will have different opinions on those (why did Captain Stanley apologize to his wife after she fainted? She wanted the kid to be whipped and stayed to watch, even after she was warned. I was expecting "I told you so", yet real-life is full of moments like these, where actions feel "right" even when they're unexpected and unexplained.
I believe Stanley apologized to his wife because for the first time she witnesses 'his world', the world he wanted to keep her from. Also, in a way, he apologizes to her because he lied to her by not telling her the truth about his scheme.

I had a discussion with a couple other screenwriters after we saw this and we just shook our heads because we didn't think it would work on paper. With all the beats, first of all, it would be a very short script. Then there would be so many questions -as you said - that this script would have to have been a visualized as a project all the way through. By that I mean not as a spec script in search of a producer but as a producer's baby from the start.
Quote:
My favorite scene was when Emily Watson is in the bath, shot from behind; the camera moves down to the water droplets on her shoulder as she describes a dream, the drops of clear water on her bare skin such a contrast to the sand, mud, and clouds of flies we've seen up to then... and a slow rack-focus exposes her hands, rising from the water as she relates the key moment of the dream. Wanna-be directors will see plenty of "damn, that guy's good" moments. And great performances all around, especially Pearce, who does wonders with little dialogue.
This is one of my favourite scenes visually as well. And not just because we get to see Emily Watson's shoulders. You refer to the clouds of flies and that is a reference to the flogging scene where the flies seem to come almost symbolically to settle on the vengeful townsfolk. Though I think this is actually quite realistic as in that environment the flies would immediately gather to dine on the blood.
Quote:
A lot of pre-(US) release (this is already on import DVD from down under) website reviews considered the film too "slow";
Those people are idiots.
__________________
--
Visit http://www.KeithLoh.com | stuff about living in Vancouver | My Flickr photo gallery
Keith Loh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 6th, 2006, 10:35 AM   #4
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 108
Interesting about the script... Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat go waaaay back, and have worked on music videos and films together. (There are several interviews on-line with C and H speaking about the process of this film).

Cave says he wrote the script in three weeks, and considered it "the easiest gig he ever had"; it was written specifically for Hillcoat to direct, and also specifically for Guy Pearce. So yes... presenting this script to a studio or director could have been a very tough sell, but apparently Cave and Hillcoat had discussed an "Aussie western" that dealt with some of the darker points of history down-under.

Cave mentioned that the financial backers had only a few points in the script they felt needed clarification and that they were pretty well left alone. I recall something in the AC article as well, about the remoteness of the location allowing them even more free reign. (I recall they also used some sort of new-ish panny cameras that were small and portable, and were nervous about all the sand and dust with an untried system??)

This is one I look forward to analyzing in detail on DVD; it's ripe for some sweet "making-of" chapters as well.

If you're interested in the poem that is whispered towards the final "ride" scenes (which is also the lyrics to the closing credits song), google "The Rider" by Nick Cave.
Michael Carter is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 6th, 2006, 11:28 AM   #5
Air China Pilot
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Vancouver, B.C.
Posts: 2,389
Michael, you'll have me searching out that AC issue (as I have a week away on an island coming up). It'll make for good reading.

I guess I pegged it right as a producer's baby.
__________________
--
Visit http://www.KeithLoh.com | stuff about living in Vancouver | My Flickr photo gallery
Keith Loh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 6th, 2006, 12:05 PM   #6
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 108
This review cracked me up, by the way:

"Like a bucket of soft, cuddly, roly-poly kittens comes The Proposition rolling into a theater near you. Well, no, actually: Itís more like a bucket of mutilated radioactive mutant dwarf tigers with ferocious teeth and rabies. "

http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/...on_review.html
Michael Carter is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 6th, 2006, 07:55 PM   #7
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 275
Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Loh
You know you are in for something unique when the first words on the screen are a disclaimer - almost an apology - to aboriginal viewers warning them that they will see images of their dead from photos (and perhaps from the images in the story). But there is no apology for the audience.
G'day Keith,

Just so the culture barrier ain't lying on its back, the reason for the disclaimer for the aboriginals and thier dead is because some Native Australian's believe that to take a photograph takes one's soul away.

Additionally, it is a kind of "sacrilage" or it is, "disheartening" to see photo's and images of recently departed.... this could mean a number of things. You could be calling back the dead, and thier souls will never rest.

Which is why Indigenous art only depicts ancestors in the dreamtime, and figures of history, and not likenesses of particular people.

But yes, you are right, it is an apology, or it comes across as one. Most Australian films acknowledge that we have to tread all over their religion just to get them on film and show it.

Other than that, as an Aussie, I'm glad you enjoyed the film... Australian cinema in the past few years have struggling, as the majority of films that come out of Australia are crap about junkies and alcoholics and "drama." A lot of our films forget that a good story doesnt need a long script. And as the proposition isnt much of dialogue, the images are very powerfull....
Leo Pepingco is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > And Now, For Something Completely Different... > Awake In The Dark

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:11 AM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network