SNOWTOWN is remarkable for a number of reasons. First, it is an astonishingly fresh debut from Kurzel, a steady and sure directorial effort. The ensemble cast is also excellent, a mix of amateurs and local talent that bring a depth and richness to the film. Finally, there’s the story itself – harrowing, horrific, made all the more remarkable in that it is told almost entirely from the perspective of its central characters, characters we learn in time are actually serial murders.
Based on real events, the story’s unique structure does wonders to bring a fresh perspective on this tired film genre. Stripping most salaciousness out of the work, and portraying a very real feeling portrait of the events and environment that shapes the lives of both victim and perpetrator. Even the palate of the film, washed out, blown highlights, speaks to the ambivalent nature of the films characters.
Daniel Henshall portrayal of John Bunting, a kind of community leader that takes his own moralizing into a deeply dark area, is simply riveting. So too is Lucas Pittaway’s turn as Jamie, the most tortured and complex character of the lot.
This is a film where emotions are ripped apart, disjointing any common moral center in favour of a rich, complex, eminently factual account. This is no dry exercise, nor is it nihilistic or disengaged. SNOWTOWNS structure and performance both serve to provide a rich complexity of action and feeling without conforming to simple persuasions or manipulations common in works of this genre.
This is a rich film full of nuance, serving as a shot across the bow for other, more prosaic works. It’s a true story that feels true because of the stylistic choices made by the filmmakers and performers, and while its deliberate pace and complex, nearly philosophical take on some serious brutality may be off-putting for a casual audience, those open to be challenged by images on screen should be sure to give SNOWTOWN a visit.