Rabbit-Proof Fence - rated - HOT! HOT! HOT!


In my humble opinion this is the most ravishing film filmed in Australia since Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975). Take a bow, director Phil Noyce, principal cinematographer Chris Doyle (and Brad Shield who did additional photography), and Production Designer Roger Ford!

From the first frame we know we are in for something special. There is an
overhead shot which establishes the landscape which will develop almost into a character in the film. But the shot also shows us the landscape of the mind - which is a very important aspect of Aboriginal art.

There are so many ways in which this film impresses visually. There's a scene where the girls see a nurse at the camp - and it is clear they see her as a ghost. . There's a scene where Molly's skin is examined (for signs of whiteness) and there is a kind of bleached-out P.O.V camera which is very effective. When the girls run away from camp, the film looks like an animated painting from the Heidelberg School. The yellow flowers looked handpainted! It was one of the most lovely things I've seen in a film. And then the grass waves, and it looks almost digital, giving a vivid impression of seeds being released in the dry heat. The film was shot at Leigh Creek, the Flinders Ranges, the Pilbara and Adelaide

The performances of the three little girls (Evelyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury and Laura Monaghan) are quite adequate, but they are photographed so beautifully that it hardly matters that they are not nuanced or complex portrayals. Ningali Lawford impresses in an fairly small but crucial role as the girls' mother. At one point Kenneth Branagh (who is excellent in the unsympathetic role of AO Neville) describes Molly's look as "unfathomable". Director Phil Noyce shows the secret smiles of the Tracker (David Gulpilil), and of Molly's mother, as they follow the girls' progress. And later, when Molly is told by a kindly woman that the fence diverges, Noyce captures Molly's knowing look so beautifully. He really serves his young actors so well.

I just marvel at the way Noyce manages to tell what is, it must be said, a fairly slight story, into a full length feature film, without it ever seeming to be too long, and without a second of dullness. A large part of this is due to the way he selects and shoots the landscape, often with a ground-level P.O.V.

There has been some criticism of Peter Gabriel's music score, and also some high praise. I fall into the high praise group. I found it haunting, and integral to the whole impressionistic style of the film. I should also single out the sound designer, too. There are many sounds in the film which are not at all musical, and they add substantially to the film. Some of the very loud noises are jarring - but they make you feel just how scary the whole ordeal was for the children

There's a very upsetting moment in the film, when Myarn Lawford, playing the grandmother, hits herself repeatedly on the head with a stone. Two little girls sitting next to me laughed. I was shocked, but it made me realise how foreign such a reaction is to the lives of everyday middle class Aussie kids. I became aware of these girls and watched their reactions to the film from then on. They were riveted every second after that. I take that as high praise indeed.

There's even a credit for the "Prosthetic Goanna". What a film!

© Michèle M Asprey 2002

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