Dir: Jennifer Kent
Starring Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr
Jennifer Kent follows up her hugely impressive horror movie The Babadook with a brutal, dark but compelling western rape revenge movie, with many a twist. It’s 1825 in the Tasmanian wilderness, and Irish woman Clare (Franciosi) has got herself a gun and a cause, courtesy of a savage gang rape, and the murder of her husband and baby.
When the perpetrator of these events, the malicious English officer Hawkins (Claflin) heads north through the wilderness, a vengeful Clare sets off to track him down, with the help of reluctant aboriginal guide Billy (Ganambarr)
There’s the spirit of Josey Wales and a good deal of brutality in Kent’s film, but as both parties travel through the inhospitable landscape more of a story begins to emerge, and we see that this is as much a story of the rape and destruction of a country and communities as it is of people. With Clare cast as the nightingale, and Billy as the self-proclaimed blackbird, the sounds of the forest begin to envelop all, with birdsong becoming the overriding soundtrack, as the imposing natural world seems to rob each of these travellers of their sanity the deeper they go into this heart of darkness – with Hawkins losing all sense of order and morality, just as Clare fights not to succumb to her increasingly vivid nightmares.
As the film moves to its climactic act, it becomes clear that people and their agendas have shifted, revenge is not as clear as it can be, and things are not going to end the way you would expect…
Beautifully shot in muted tones by Radek Ladczuk, with a provocative soundscape that sets out to both immerse and, at times, overwhelm, Kent proves remarkably assured and formal in her style, as her film compels more and more as it unfolds. After The Babadook, this confirms the filmmaker as a major talent indeed.