Interview: Public Defender
Legal: Craig's Story
Unions: Wrong Way, Go Back
Politics: Queue Jumping
History: Iron Heel
Economics: Waging War
International: Under Pressure
Poetry: Billy Negotiates An AWA
Review: A Pertinent Proposition
The Locker Room
Truth in Advertising
What a Woman!
It's Not Pretty
A Pertinent Proposition
A shoot-out amidst a corrugated iron hut in the heat of North Queensland sets the scene for the start of Nick Cave's film touted as the classic Australian western. Set in the 1880s, this is an engaging perspective on rugged life in an emerging colony.
The key character Charlie Burns played by a toned Guy Pearce is set a task - find and kill his menacing elder brother Arthur to ensure the freedom of his younger, simple brother Mikey. Mikey has been taken to the cells for the alleged rape and murder of the Hopkins family, settlers and friends of the local copper Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone). Captain Stanley does a deal with Charlie to do his brother in, in return for the release of Mikey. Charlie sets out on his hunt to find his elder brother, amid a haunting soundtrack by Nick Cave and the arid, harsh and dusty landscape.
The local constabulary, bored, plod their way through the day, taunting and bullying young Mikey who remains in the cells directly under the heat of the sun. At night, the coppers drink and gossip, reflecting a drinking culture not dissimilar to a Friday night in any public house.
Meanwhile, Mrs Stanley, frets in her house, awaiting the return of her beloved Captain. Her world could have been lifted from English upper class society. In the inhospitable North Queensland environment she tends a rose garden, behind a white picket fence and enjoys all the material comforts the landed English aristocracy would have taken for granted back in the mother country. The white picket fence is an emblematic reminder of John Howard's 1950's version of Australian life. She truly loves her husband, despite his rough edges and all-consuming hangovers. He is a good man, so it seems, but distracted by the job and the trouble of ensuring the townspeople are law-abiding and get justice for the deaths of the Hopkins.
A group of Aboriginal men are caught "up in the hills" and are brought to the station for interrogation, via translation by the tracker, played by David Gulpilil. The scene erupts into farce as it becomes obvious that the "blackfellas" are taking the piss.
Young Mikey suffers terrible deprivations and cruelty under the orders of land-owner Mr Eden Fletcher played by a neatly moustached David Wenham, a long way from Diver Dan or Brett Sprague in The Boys. The lashing scene for my money was worse than some of the violence in Wolf Creek. But at the same time it's a lesson in the punishments and cruelties of colonial life in late 1800s Australia.
In his travels Charlie comes across Jellon Lamb a mercenary and drunken bounty hunter, played by a fabulous John Hurt. Hurt looks very old now but he still adds fantastic texture to the array of local characters. Charlie finally locates his brother and his outlaw gang. The shots of stunning sunsets and the Australian bush are a credit to cinematographer Benoit Delhomme. The colour of the sky changes to reflect Charlie's quiet contemplation and the poignancy of the moment when he reunites with his sibling's gang.
After devising a cunning plan, the tale unfolds in all its misery and violence. No one character seems to be untouched by the climax of the film and its surprising ending.
The Proposition provides a window into a past, perhaps now forgotten, but still so relevant in terms of understanding contemporary themes of class, gender, race and nationality, even city and country. The eternal human experiences of love, betrayal and family loyalty float through the film. Go see it, if nothing else for the music and Mr Cave's excursion into feature film-making.
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