Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

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On Sunday 11 November (Remembrance Day) at 11am, pay tribute to those who have died in military combat through a minute of silence …

Director: Mel Gibson

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Vinge Vaughan, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Teresa Palmer

Last month I reviewed Bruce Beresford’s Black Robe, and it got me thinking about depictions of Christianity in Australian cinema. In Hollywood’s heyday, Biblical epics were a genre unto themselves and a commercial force not unlike today’s superhero films; indeed, adjusted for inflation, The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur are among the most successful films of all time, far out-grossing anything from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Beyond that genre, classic Hollywood depictions of Christianity were heavily informed by the Motion Picture Production Code (colloquially known as the Hays Code) which prohibited ridicule of the clergy or depicting religion in a negative light. While contemporary mainstream Hollywood fare errs to the secular, earnest depictions of Christianity persist in the faith film, a very American genre that’s enjoyed striking successes in recent years (see Heaven is for Real, War Room, or this year’s I Can Only Imagine). In contrast, in Australian cinema only a handful of films centre on Christian protagonists: The Devil’s Playground, based on Fred Schepisi’s days in a Catholic seminary; A Cry in the Dark, Schepisi’s sympathetic portrait of Seventh Day Adventists Lindsay and Michael Chamberlain following the disappearance of their daughter Azaria; and international co-productions such as Paul Cox’s historical film Molokai: The Story of Father Damien and the abovementioned Black Robe (Beresford also helmed the Hollywood Biblical feature King David). Nonetheless, look at the list of most successful Christian films on Box Office Mojo and you’ll find a number of Antipodean threads: the Chronicles of Narnia films were made in New Zealand and utilised local craftspeople; cinematographer Dean Semler shot Heaven is For Real; Sam Worthington and Radha Mitchell headline The Shack; Australian Christian band Hillsong United is the subject of documentary Hillsong: Let Hope Rise; and the highest grossing Christian film (unadjusted for inflation) was helmed by an Australian actor-director: Mel Gibson.

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Musical comedy triple bill: The Night We Called It a Day (2003), Thunderstruck (2004), BoyTown (2006)

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Last week, Down Under Flix kicked off a month on comedies from the noughties and thereabouts, highlighting a triptych of Australian romantic comedies. This week’s featured trio are linked by a shared focus on music, milking comedy from real-world entertainment lore, rock ‘n’ roll hagiography, and satirical jabs at manufactured pop music.

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Macbeth (2006)

MACBETH

Director: Geoffrey Wright

Stars: Sam Worthington, Victoria Hill, Gary Sweet, Lachy Hulme

Second viewing, via DVD

It’s fascinating that in the short space of ten years, two Australian filmmakers have adapted William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. While the Bard’s play is an all-timer, and has been adapted in the past by master directors like Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, and Roman Polanski, film adaptations haven’t exactly been abundant. So the fact that two Australians would choose to steer it to the screen less than a decade apart is a weird anomaly, though not inexplicable. One could conjecture at length about the 400+ year old “Scottish” play’s relevance to contemporary Australian identity, the timelessness of its depiction of ambition, greed, conspiracy, regicide, guilt, and hubris… but really, it’s just a terrific, badass piece of source material.

I really wanted to like Justin Kurzel’s 2015 adaptation of Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender. Kurzel’s a very good filmmaker – his 2011 film Snowtown, about the murders that transpired in the South Australian town of the same name, is exceptional – and I like that he committed to a very particular take on the source. I just wasn’t a fan of that relentlessly gridmark take. I also can’t help but question the casting of Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth: she’s a tremendous actress, but also possibly the least Scottish person on the planet, and that planet includes Jackie Chan, Deepak Chopra and Usain Bolt.

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