Thursday, May 24, 2007


The Proposition is a film of transient men (both physically and morally) that is liberally peppered with sweat and fly feces. It is a western that is as far away from the American West as Sergio Leone was when making his epic films in Italy and Spain. The Australians have always used their harsh open spaces to depict fear and lurking evil - from Picnic at Hanging Rock to the recent Jindabyne. Director John Hillcoat photographs the landscape in harsh yellows and reds, but shows the struggle between three men is far nastier than the hot sun or crawling insects.

The film opens with an outpost lawman (the always excellent Ray Winstone) having captured two of the three brothers responsible for the rape and murder of one of the homestead families in his jurisdiction. Knowing that the one that he does not have in custody is the worst of the bunch, he offers the titular proposition to the next most competent brother (Guy Pearce): To save his weak and simple brother from hanging, he has to kill his older sibling who is hiding in the wilderness before Christmas which is a mere nine days away. The plot is as simple as a just being a tracker film. Although those elements are present and they are fine enough; more compelling is the tentative hold of civilization in the outback represented by the lawman's wife (a subtle and radiant Emily Watson), whose rosebushes cling disparately to the outback soil while tended by a local aborigine. The film asks if civilization even belongs here at all, for better or for worse. Even so called civilized men fall pray to the savageness intrinsic in the hot soil. The desert brings out the worst in men, and is especially hard on those who attempt to tame it. The aborigines in town (including a nice cameo from David Gulpilil) watch the drama from a distance and remain uninvolved and uninvited, occassional tools if necessary.

Featuring contradictory characters, often abruptly violent and operatic in the telling, The Proposition seems to have many of the trappings of the genre, but it is a wholly unique beast. More than worthwhile viewing for those with the stomach it.


Post a Comment

<< Home