Words Glenn Blomfield
Wow, what a stunning film, this one left a mark. It has a cerebral level, digs into your psyche, penetrates you with its subtle beauty and deep sadness. An Australian film set in the late 1920’s, looks like a western, acts like a western, but feels like some type a spiritual experience with a History lesson.
An elderly aboriginal farm hand Sam Kelly is on the run from the law, after killing of a ‘white-fella’, but it is not as simple as that, very complicated in terms of the consequences, and how does a Aboriginal Man prove reasoning where Aboriginals have no value in a ‘white fella’s’ society.
Sweet Country is filmed with a sparseness, a quietness, with powerful moments, and dominating cinematography. The Director is Warwick Thornton, who also does cinematography on the film. Past film to note is ‘Samson Delilah’ 2009, also a very good film.
I can’t shake the power I felt from this film, I was emotionally drawn in and by the final act I was feeling the tenseness, anxiety of the situation, moral confusions and challenges brought up by the characters. The most amazing thing about this film is how its quietness is so loud at the same time, metaphorically speaking that is.
As mentioned earlier there is a sparseness in the style of the film, stripped of a music soundtrack, the end credits lists three pieces of music, one I believe was in the title sequence, and another was the end credits with Johnny Cash, and a third somewhere during the film I cant place.
It creates a hypnotic intoxicating visual style, drawing you in, it certainly is a film that you experience with all senses. The other directing decisions have scenes that appear juxtaposed, surreal moments that actually have importance on a sub-level to the main narration of the story, this adds a forbidding and rather spiritual level to the film.
The acting in Sweet Country I found to be strong and powerful, the main character Aboriginal Sam Kelly played by Aboriginal actor Hamilton Morris, is reserved, what may seem simple but actually very complicated. New Zealand’s own Sam Neil plays Fred Smith, a key role as a man of Christian faith and moral, the Aboriginal Sam Kelly with his wife and niece works for him, but he’s noted not as a slave, but as a fellow farm hand.
Bryan Brown Australia’s very own war horse of a actor, puts in one of his career best roles, as a town sheriff Sergeant Fletcher, controlling the law with immoral attributes, which are challenged to his stubborn core.
Every Character actor in the film Sweet Country has incredible depth and intensity, that resonates. Everyone seems haunted by a deep sadness and confused directions, challenging their every step. I am purposely holding back on the story details and scene descriptions, as there is a part off me that wants you, the reader, to be a viewer like myself and experience a truly great film.
Personally I am not a fan of reviews that give a lot of story details, and analysed scene descriptions, because you already then know to much before going in, taking away allot of for example what I the reviewer first hand experienced.
Hopefully there is enough insight, and personal response for you to go and see, what I truly believe is up there as one of Australia’s greatest movies.