Monday, February 11, 2008

Last night I met this guy and I'm gonna do a little favor for him

I admit my interest in the Australian Western film The Proposition was based mostly on the fact that the screenplay was written by Nick Cave, he of the scary songs. As he points out in the making of special, Cave's song writing is of a narrative bent, so it isn't surprising he has crafted a compelling story here.

The story begins with two of the Burns brothers, wanted for rape and murder, captured by Captain Stanley of the local constabulary. Stanley correctly sees that Arthur Burns, who was uncaptured, is the true demon. So he offers Charlie Burns a deal. If he can bring back Arthur, he will spare the life of the simpleton brother Michael Burns. If he doesn't, Michael will hang.

Like the Wire, the Proposition blurs the lines between good and bad guys. Both Charlie and Captain Stanley live by a reasonable moral code, while Arthur and many of the other police are merciless and cruel.

At some level, this is about the environment, the harsh Australian outback. On one level, the English try to bring their culture and lifestyle to the outback. This fails to take. Unfortunately they bring their hatred of the Irish and the Aborigines, and this succeeds all too well.

Like Cormac McCarthy in Blood Meridian, director John Hillcoat contrasts the beauty of the landscape with the cruelty of the people. Adding to the ambiguity only the truly wicked, like Arthur Burns, express admiration for the landscape.

It's a good movie and a look at Australian history that will be new to many.

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