KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Column: Film and TV

God in all things: Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s Hail

by Imogen , November 29, 20123 Comments

Peter Nicolai Arbo’s 'The Wild Hunt'

In an industry where marginalised social classes are routinely depicted as loveable larrikins, comical bogans or dangerous criminals and sexual predators, Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s Hail signals something of a breakthrough in Australian cinema. Based on the life and stories of Daniel P. Jones (who also performs the lead role, Danny), the film broadly depicts one man’s struggles to reintegrate into society following his release from prison.

If that premise conjures thoughts of the type of Australian film that audiences all too often avoid, then you’re mistaken; Hail is no run-of-the-mill social realist narrative. As Courtin-Wilson explained in an interview for AFI Blog:

 

‘I was always very conscious of not wanting to make a kitchen sink drama. I really, really love the idea of taking the minutiae of day-to-day everyday lives and setting that against an almost mythical kind of backdrop and I was very conscious of making something a bit more epic and romantic, something grander and more lyrical in terms of the music and the cinematography.’

 

And Hail is nothing if not epic in the way it represents Danny’s post-incarcerated existence. Opening the film with the image of Peter Nicolai Arbo’s The Wild Hunt (1872) – a mythical Norse scene depicting Odin lording over a vast escort of beings let loose from the Underworld and preparing to wreak chaos upon the world – Courtin-Wilson envisages Danny’s release from prison as a grand event. Like the tormented-souls of Arbo’s painting, Danny too appears as if from another realm: a violent creature barely contained in a man’s body.

But despite his imposing physical presence and piercing stare, Hail avoids treating Danny as just another violent thug on the verge of re-offending. In a manner befitting the film’s mythical frame, Courtin-Wilson seems more interested in exploring the fragility of this complex character and approaches Danny as a kind of fallen deity, trapped inside a mortal form and thrust into an unfamiliar world.

Imagining his reintegration as a process of sensorial awakenings, Courtin-Wilson draws on an array of elemental imagery to highlight Danny’s relationship to the world. Water, in particular, forms a key motif throughout the film. Early on, Danny is shown washing cars and drinking from a hose but in later scenes appears in the shower and then fully submerged within a swimming pool. While this gradual immersion might suggest Danny’s coming to terms with his physical self it also gestures at his increasing oneness with the external world.

As the narrative progresses, the film’s play of elemental forms gradually comes to reflect not so much Danny’s physical acclimatisation but the exteriorisation of his psyche, the ‘stuff in his head’ that he confesses, ‘wants to kill me’. When his violence finally erupts, it manifests in the fire, rain, snow and hail which showers down around him, positing his character as an unstoppable force of nature. Not coincidentally, when Danny attacks for the first time he does so while brandishing a hammer. But in contrast to the similarly armed figure in Arbo’s painting, Danny has no otherworldly realm in which to return: his fall is irreversible. The finality of Danny’s descent is all but confirmed by Courtin-Wilson in an astonishing sequence involving a free-falling horse, which, like the hammer, draws on The Wild Hunt as its mythical reference point.

Yet unlike the contained violence of Arbo’s work, as Danny’s self-willed chaos spreads it moves beyond the world of the characters and crosses over into the filmic form, threatening Hail’s narrative through the fragmentation of cohesive cinematic style, space and time. It’s a chaos that is entirely in line with the epic vision that the writer-director has courted from the outset. As he acknowledged in an interview for Bomblog:

 

‘It’s an incomplete world; there are cracks and openings in that world. I wanted to take that and travel down into hell with Danny. I remember discussing with [the cinematographer] Germain how to try and literally have God reveal itself in every image. God in all things.’

 

In approaching the film through this concept of immanence, Courtin-Wilson has discovered a form of character that deftly avoids the reductive tropes typically aligned with such marginalised figures. The notion that God resides in the image is also something that Danny seems acutely aware. In one particular scene while lamenting his meagre existence, the character points to a framed image on an apartment wall and cries, ‘It ain’t a painting, it’s a print’. The same cannot be said of Hail.

Hail is due to be released on DVD in March 2013 through Madman Entertainment.




9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

womeninclothes-600

Carody Culver

Closet Concerns: Women in Clothes

Women in Clothes wants to tell a more inclusive story, to reveal the pleasures, hang-ups and complexities that reside in the simple act of dressing ourselves, and to remind us that we don’t perform our style rituals in a vacuum. Read more »

4285342-3x4-700x933

Kylie Maslen

The Harp in the South and other stories I wasn’t taught at school

The classics I studied at school were certainly great works, but how relevant are these books to young Australians? Yes, they were valuable to study as examples of technical skill. But they were all by men, all white and all dead. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

Taypic

Julia Tulloh

Lovers, haters, and TaySway’s 1989

TaySway is a polariser: haters really hate her. The issue for many feminists and critics is that they simply don’t like Taylor’s version of authenticity, which happens to be embodied by a blonde, white, straight, American women from a reasonably privileged background. Read more »

15115828030_526f79c515_z

Julia Tulloh

The celebrity spokesperson phenomenon

What should we expect celebrity advocates to deliver? Emma Watson is not a full-time activist, but if she inspires young people to take an interest in gender equality, is that not a good thing? Read more »

Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-11.22.21-AM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Can too many parts destroy an adaptation? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

It’s a relief to feel the weight of fidelity lift off an adaptation film, as Mockingjay: Part 1 becomes a meta-exploration of fame, franchise and future. Read more »

Maps to the Stars

Rochelle Siemieonwicz

Monsters in Los Angeles: Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler

Both Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler are peopled by monsters who may look human, but are actually spiritually deformed and morally repugnant creatures of the most loathsome kind. The suggestion implicit in each of these thrillingly creepy stories is that these ‘freaks’ are born out of and adapted to the hellish spiritual landscape of LA. Read more »

WinterSleep-2-poster-450

Rochelle Siemienowicz

A matter of time: very long films

It’s a fatal moment for any film lover: that instant when you look away from the screen and check your watch, holding it up to the light to judge how much time is left before you can escape. A wince of pain as you realise there are still 40 minutes to go. Read more »

IMG_0086

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Pictures of pictures: Monument Valley and the rise of the in-game photographer

Presenting screencapturing a game as a form of camera-free ‘photography’ gives rise to a conceptual issue. If the ‘photographer’ is moving through, and capturing, a world created entirely by others, then who exactly should take the credit for any images created? Read more »

IMG_4309

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Patrons and gamemakers in the shadow of Gamergate

There is a lot to unpack about Gamergate, and a great deal more that isn’t at all worth taking seriously, but what the patronage pseudo-controversy has drawn attention to is the fact that there are potentially huge issues with moving to a model of monetary transactions in which our payments are increasingly networked and ‘social’. Read more »

ST_Ello_600

Connor Tomas O'Brien

The Rise of the High-Minded Startup

Ello’s manifesto is the key to understanding its relative success, and how it has managed to sign up hundreds of thousands of users despite offering a wafer-thin feature set. Read more »

00page

Danielle Binks

Disability or superpower? Deaf identity in YA

In September this year, American author and illustrator Cece Bell released a graphic memoir, El Deafo, about losing her hearing at the age of four. El Deafo details Bell’s middle-grade life and deaf experiences: she wears a clunky hearing aid, ‘The Phonic Ear’; struggles to learn to … Read more »

Anne of Green Gables

Danielle Binks

Books that take you there: YA literary tourism

How has literary tourism taken on new dimensions and greater capitalism, thanks to youth literature – both old and new, book and film? Read more »

9781863956925

Danielle Binks

Mean girls, bullies and private school privilege: Alice Pung’s Laurinda

Alice Pung’s Laurinda is hard-edged satire cloaked in contemporary YA: exploring class dynamics, everyday racism and bullying. Read more »

2530720_1332353117589.53res_500_400

Chad Parkhill

Mo money mo problems: The value of music in the age of streaming

While music streaming services have existed for a few years now – practically aeons in internet time – it is only recently that their impact on patterns of musical consumption and on musicians’ and labels’ revenues has truly begun to be felt. Read more »

2839965900_c23f818c97_z

Jane Howard

How many women composers? Classical music’s invisible women

After receiving yet another press release for a classical music concert, I tweeted an email I’d sent to the publicist asking why there were no women composers in the program. From then it became a regular task I set myself: when I received a music press release, I’d ask #howmanywomencomposers, and post the results on Twitter. Read more »

3827910256_89135334f0_z

Chad Parkhill

Who killed Amanda Palmer fandom?

Fans and consumers tend to avoid music made by people whose actions disagree with their moral compasses, and, conversely, to reward those whose actions align with them. But are they right to do so? Read more »

105768385_5672eae965_z

Stephanie Van Schilt

Bananas without pyjamas? Budgets cuts and the next generation of ABC kids

When the government dealt more than $300 million in insidious cuts to our local public broadcasters, I was on a plane in flying across another country. Although I was in a different time zone as the repercussions for the ABC and SBS unfolded, I was running on … Read more »

Marry Me - Season Pilot

Stephanie Van Schilt

Happy Hangovers and False Starts: Happy Endings and Marry Me

Binging rarely ends well. Binge eating is how unwanted food babies happen. Binge drinking is how inhibitions and memories are erased. Binge-watching a TV show can take over your life. Which is exactly what happened a few years ago when I fell in love with Happy Endings. … Read more »

thecode_main-620x349

Stephanie Van Schilt

An obligation to be kind? Australian TV critics and The Code

When Margaret Pomeranz recently spoke out about the obligation of local film critics to support the Australian film industry, she generated an interesting conversation in the critical community. Are critics who discuss the small screen in the public sphere obligated to be critically kind in their local coverage? Read more »