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Non-Review Review: The Nightingale

The Nightingale arrives as Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to The Babadook, and represents a slightly different sort of horror.

The Babadook was one of the best horror films of the decade, a creeping and unsettling look at a mother’s depression as she tried to work through her complicated feelings towards her own son. The Nightingale is something quite different, essentially a frontier western about a woman who sets out to avenge herself upon the British soldiers who inflicted a terrible suffering upon her and her family. As Clare tracks these men through the wilderness with an aboriginal guide named Billy, she finds herself confronted with the true nightmares of colonial Australia.

Eyes frontier.

The Nightingale belongs to a rich tradition of Australian westerns including modern classics like The Proposal, stories that play on the frontier myth and explore the country’s deeply troubled and unsettled history. Kent’s direction is tense and claustrophobic, refusing to ever let the audience look away from the horrors inflicted upon the continent by the European settlers who presumed to claim it as their own. The Nightingale is a bleak and cynical piece of film, one that is occasionally suffocating and dizzying in its portrayal of man’s capacity for inhumanity.

However, perhaps the most striking aspect of The Nightingale is how – for all its unflinching brutality and refusal to offer trite sentimentality – the film advances an argument for intersectionalism. As Clare journeys deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness, she discovers that the suffering inflicted upon her and her family is just one expression of a more primal and insidious violence, and that perhaps she has more in common with Billy than she might originally think.

Not so hot to trot.

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Non-Review Review: Tracks

Tracks looks absolutely stunning. Photographer Rick Smolan is credited as an inspiration for the look and feel of the film, which makes a great deal of sense – Smolan was the photographer tasked by National Geographic with documenting Robyn Davidson’s trek across Australia. His pictures, accompanying Davidson’s article in National Geographic, captured the raw beauty of the Australian countryside. Director John Curran and cinematographer Mandy Walker create a rich a vivid study of the journey.

The story itself is told at a leisurely pace, allowing the audience to absorb the scale of Davidson’s remarkable accomplishment – as if documenting the sheer breadth of the continent. Tracks isn’t quite perfect. It occasionally indulges a little too heavily in clichés while refusing to delve too far under the skin of its protagonist. Still, it’s a beautifully produced piece of cinema featuring a wonderful central performance and some absolutely breathtaking imagery.

"I walked through the desert with a camel with no name..."

“I walked through the desert with a camel with no name…”

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