I appreciate films like Snowtown; they’re gritty, visually candid and unvarnished. It’s an extremely hard-hitting film which I keep thinking about; a great piece of film making, but honestly I don’t think I’ll be watching it again. It was seriously depressing and grim. Even ‘The Road’ is a happier film and that’s saying something. It was genuinely shocking; something I only intend to put my self through once.
Australian directors have this impressive skill for creating naturalism; giving very accurate and harsh representations of life with incredible realism. I love that and its one of the main reasons I love Australian cinema so much. But when you combine that with Snowtown’s factual storyline centred around child abuse, murder and the notorious John Bunting, then for me, it just got a little too much to stomach.
Snowtown is an incredibly powerful and thought-provoking film told from the perspective of sixteen year old Jamie. After Jamie and his two younger brothers are sexually abused by a neighbour they accept the help of John Bunting, a seemingly ‘nice’ guy who helps run the paedophile out-of-town. Bunting soon starts a relationship with Elizabeth, the boys’ mother, and becomes a father figure to the three brothers. Giving them the stability and protection they long for. But things quickly fall apart as Bunting takes the law into his own hands, hunting down, terrorising, and killing perverts and paedophiles; exposing the family, especially Jamie, to his crimes and in his eyes justifiable murders.
From Jamie’s perspective, the film focuses more on the abuse and not the murders. And although the small amount of violence in the film was unpleasant, it’s the abuse I found most uncomfortable to watch. It shocked me and I am rarely affected that way when I watch films. But this really turned my stomach. Had it been a work of fiction I don’t think I’d have had that same reaction.
But Snowtown is in no way a bad film. It sounds like I’m slating it but I’m really not. My only problem was how severely intense it was; the whole way through. It’s not a pleasant viewing experience when you spend two hours feeling uncomfortable and uneasy. For the entire film I was on edge, just waiting for the next seriously f**ked up thing to happen. It was an emotional workout. And if anything my one issue with the film (which isn’t really an issue with the film at all, but rather me being a total wimp) only highlights and reinforces my point that Australian directors are expert craftsmen when it comes to realism. It was just a little too graphic for me. And although I’ve seen worse on film, violently, and not had such a strong reaction, I can only attribute it to a mix of the film being a true story, the very raw and honest performances, and that masterful naturalism I’ve already raved on about. When I think of Australia I think beautiful weather, surfing, beaches, incredible views, and nice people but Snowtown paints a much darker, bleak and depressing picture. Something they don’t advertise in the holiday brochures. Snowtown gives a brief glance at the very real, unglamorous and deprived part of Australia which outsiders rarely get to see. It’s refreshing to see something that hasn’t been sugar-coated and watered down for easy viewing. It was honest. But the highlight of the film for me and what I was most impressed by were the performances. A cast of fresh faces lead by Daniel Henshall (John Bunting) and Lucas Pittaway (Jamie), both incredible in their movie debuts. Snowtown is an exhibition of talent; especially Pittaway, delivering such a raw, very honest and uninhibited performance in this challenging, and extremely demanding role. He reminds me of a young Heath Ledger and I hope to see him in more films.
I probably haven’t done the best job in selling this film to you but I’m glad I watched it. If for nothing else then it introduced me to some new and incredible acting talent who I will look out for in the future. I like to think the film was educational as well, giving a brief look into the warped mind of John Bunting; which I have researched further since watching Snowtown.
I’m going to give it a healthy 3.9 out of 5 on the Beast rating scale. So all in all it’s a rave review. Go watch it or wait for the DVD, but don’t blame me if you feel horrible inside because you have been warned. 🙂