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
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
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
This review is copyright. You must not use any part without my permission.