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Australia 1977
Directed by
Ken Hannam
95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Director Ken Hannam’s film is an undeservedly overlooked instance of Australian Gothic film which despite its contemporary setting and more overt sexual content recalls the best known entry in this small category Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975). This is not entirely surprising as the writer, producer and composer of Peter Weir’s film, Cliff Green, Pat Lovell and Bruce Smeaton, fill the same roles here.

Nick Tate plays Simon Robinson, a teacher who arrives in a small Victorian coastal town to the take over after the previous teacher disappeared without explanation. He is intrigued by the fact that none of the townsfolk seem particularly concerned and also becomes friendly with an aloof brother and sister (John Waters and Elizabeth Alexander) who live on a small private island just off the mainland.

Green and Hannam play the film as a psychological thriller planting lots of suggestive touches that lead nowhere in particular but with the addition of Smeaton’s score and Mike Molloy’s cinematography create an unsettling atmosphere of isolation and foreboding before boldly revealing its secret.   

The execution is not perfect. The dialogue is at times stilted. Waters although pleasing to the eye is not a good actor but at least his self-consciousness suits the role he has here, bringing an awkward ambivalence to his character.  Tate and Alexander are effective as the plot is advanced by the one, diverted by the other although some of Tate’s wardrobe choices are unfortunate and date the film badly. At least for Antipodean viewers however these qualities may well endow the film with a certain homespun appeal as a local descendant of Polanski's classic, Chinatown (1977). 

FYI: The fictional Summerfield was set on Churchill Island in Westernport Bay, Victoria.




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