Heckloads of catching up to do. A problem with this project is it is bloodless summary after bloodless summary. In the meantime, a few words about something no one could accuse of being bloodless. Snowtown, ladies and gentleman, an extraordinary unflinching account of the Australian Snowtown murders from first-time director, Justin Kurzel. Despite containing the sort of scenes that caused eight people to walk out when I saw it at the cinema, the sheer nerve, beautiful cinematography and nuanced performances, made it one of my top films of last year. It is now out on DVD and to promote it, Revolver hosted a Tweet-along screening and Q&A with Kurzel in Holland Park last night.
Twitter was dubious about the merits of posting little soundbites to accompany a film of such unrelenting horror. True, there’s not much there’s not much in the way of witty responses to sexual abuse, torture and murder, but being forced to examine my responses throughout the film refreshed my admiration for its look, structure and soundtrack. Turning away from the evil deeds only to hit us with long, austere shots of the suburban wasteland and sprawling Australian plains beyond it, Kurzel is smart enough to know there is no neat shape these events can be forced to assume. Instead, his camera simply presents, stark frame by stark frame, nature in all its forms. In sink town Snowtown, these forms tend towards the destructive.
To create authenticity and win the trust of the people depicted within the community, Kurzel cast real-life inhabitants of the town who had known Bunting. During the Q&A afterwards, it became apparent quite how sensitively he had treated the subject matter – keen to stay true to Shaun Grant’s script in finding a human point of view to what could easily have been a judgmental horror story. What also came out is the hard-to-believe fact that Snowtown the film took it easy on us. Kurzel would not repeat the details contained in the transcripts of what really happened. That the director could consume such sickening details yet present them to the public as a stand-up and startling piece of narrative cinema speaks volumes of his technical skills and determination to compassionately illuminate events shrouded in darkness.
Kurzel said he is in talks at the moment regarding two further projects but could say no more on the subject. Whatever he does next, there is no doubt in my mind that it will be fascinating.