We don’t want this to descend into an IMDB forum debate where an inability to like something is the exact same thing as the inability to comprehend it but Richard Wilkins’ zero star review of Snowtown saw zero critical merit in a film which just won special mention at Critic’s Week at Cannes. That’s a larger void than we’re used to for locally made films with a modicum of praise. Don’t we reach for blind hyperbole if something’s remotely good? Even if it’s not, right Australia? Not so for Wilkins and we salute him. It’s refreshing to see someone’s outrage outweigh their duties as a populist Australian film critic.
“I think it is the most disgusting, horrific, depraved and degrading film I have ever seen,” Wilkins said on the Today show yesterday. “This is as close to a snuff movie as I ever want to see,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s rooted in truth or not, it’s appalling. I’ve seen it so you don’t have to.”
Wilkins’ comments come as Justin Kurzel’s debut feature competes against 22 others for the career-making Camera d’Or at Cannes; the festival’s “Golden Camera” for best debut feature. In 2009 Australian Warwick Thornton won it for mostly dialogue-free masterpiece*, Samson and Delilah. Both films are beautifully realized and driven by bleakness but Kurzel’s drama features far more violence and subject matter which some might find irksome.
We spoke with Kurzel last week and he had this to say about the line between implied and visual violence: “I think it was a balance. I think there are some scenes where the violence is expressed through suggestion and then obviously there are others that are more explicit. To us, every act of violence in the film was a turning point in Jamie’s journey..to us the violence always had to be connected to the psychology of his character and when he was being tested…I never wanted the violence to be the thing that was leading the film. I’d seen a couple of documentaries about it that were just body counts, you know, onto the next one, onto the next one. I wanted it to be deeply entrenched in the psychology of this character but at the same time I think it was about bringing the audience to the edge of a cliff and letting them peer into a kind of brutality that I don’t think anyone has ever really seen…Not sanitizing it, but not letting them fall. And that’s a subjective thing, some people will feel as though they fell and others will feel as though they’re sitting there, still connected to the journey and the story.”
So Richard fell in and you’re totally allowed to because this particular film like every piece of art ever is not for everyone. Some people are offended by male nudity and torture, some people are offended by Jennifer Aniston. Some people are offended/captivated by both. They’re called opinions. Richard is totally entitled to his but he shouldn’t deter everyone from watching this film. The most “disgusting, horrific, depraved and degrading film” I’ve even seen featured two girls and the saddest cup in the world and Snowtown is the best Australian film you’ll see this year. I highly recommend that you see it.
*instances of hyperbole