Australian director Jennifer Kent's masterful ghost story The Babadook was a beautiful exercise in genre, using horror to explore the intimate and painful grief of a single mother. Her long-awaited follow-up, The Nightingale, is something of a departure; a brutal deliberation on colonial and misogynist violence presented in a way which reportedly prompted some audience members to walk out of screenings at Sydney Film Festival in June, but which the director herself has described as "honest and necessary".
Set in 1825, the film focuses on Clare (Aisling Franciosi), a young Irish convict, who endures horrendous degradation and abuse at the hands of Lt. Hawkins (Sam Claflin), a British Officer to whom she is indentured and who treats her as his personal property. After Hawkins commits a truly barbaric act of savagery against Clare and her family, she is compelled to chase him across the Tasmanian wilderness to enact her revenge, enlisting the services of an Aboriginal tracker named Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) as a guide, a man who is also marked by trauma from his own violent past. To help shape the film's depiction of Tasmanian experience and history, Kent worked very closely with Jim Everett, a Tasmanian Indigenous elder, from very early on in the production, and he is credited as an executive producer.
In a year which has seen widespread discussion on the representation of onscreen violence, The Nightingale emerges as a thoughtful, ambitious piece of filmmaking, committed to reckoning with the implications of such depictions, as well as unflinchingly confronting the atrocities of Australia's colonial past.
Information published by Leisure and Culture Dundee.
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