Sunday, July 30, 2006
I watched The Proposition (trailer) last night at City Cinema, and, while it was an excellent movie, the thought crossed my mind about 3/4ths of the way through it to just get up and walk out. Not out of disappointment, but out of shock. This is definitely a movie where, if I was watching it at home, I would take many breaks and pauses before finishing it.
I'm not normally one to flinch at violence in movies, either. Normally I am the one least likely to be scared by a horror movie or set on edge by suspense, since I often find myself thinking about how a certain effect was done, how they made the blood or explosion look that way, rather than suspending my disbelief and thinking that the monster on the screen was actually doing that to the beautiful actress who was actually getting hurt.
But this movie occupies a different mental space. It's not the on-screen violence, so much as the idea of it. Between the dustiness and half-hearted, minimal buildings, and the open spaces that still feel cramped and claustrophobic, the very idea of the setting itself, 19th century Australia, becomes frightening.
The characters thrown into the land become twisted by it, the main villain quotes poetry, but you never know where his knowledge of it came from, you only imagine him living some remotely normal existance in Ireland before finding his way to Australia and having his humanity twisted around and warped into the monster depicted in the film.
Something I noticed while watching the movie is the skilled way music is used. A peaceful panorama will have background music filling the audio space, letting you relax and focus your mental attention on this harmless audio signal, but then the music is taken away, leaving you to face the ensuing on-screen violence with undivided attention. Sort of a reverse Clockwork Orange effect, where the music is the comfort, and taking it away primes you to be exposed to something horrible.
The other aspect of why the violence of the movie was so gripping was that it wasn't limited to the villains. The administrators were arguably just as savage in their doings as were the three brothers that they are trying to catch. Between administering punishments for the sheer sadistic pleasure of public beatings and hangings to the waging of war against the Aboriginees, it starts to look like the only difference between the good guys and the bad guys is self-awareness. The Australian outback seems to reject the presence of these European colonists like a body rejects an incompatible organ, poisoning it until it stops functioning normally and becomes toxic to everything around it. The contrast with the Aboriginees goes without any special mention, because it's so obvious that one must posess an entirely different set of cultural DNA to thrive there.