Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Matthew Saville's NOISE: a good deal of sound and fury signifying... what, exactly? Your choice.

A provincial Australian town on the route of a major railway that has lately experienced a mass-murder must now deal with the after-effects of this hideous and confusing crime. The shooter has left one possible victim alive, which perplexes her, as well as the police. In Matthew Saville's quiet and unsettling movie, NOISE, we get to know the municipality's police, some of the little town's citizens -- a pretty bizarre lot -- and especially one particular policeman, and his live-in lady.

As written and directed by Saville (shown at left), a veteran of Aussie television, the film weaves from character to character, incident to incident, connecting them in offhand ways that eventually pay off -- to some extent. The film's opening is almost guaranteed to keep you watching, both surprising and quietly breath-stopping in its revelations. The film's star and centerpiece is an actor named Brendan Cowell, below, who plays a cop named Graham with a physical problem, Tinnitus (an occasional ringing, sometimes roaring, in the ears), that seems to bring on other physical problems. Graham would like to be let off work for awhile, but then this massacre happens and he's put on duty in this little outpost of weirdness that only adds to the weirdness he's already experiencing.

Meanwhile that left-unhurt victim of the massacre (a nice performance from Maia Thomas, shown with Cowell in photo at bottom) has her own problems -- particularly the fear that the murderer, whom she clearly saw, will come after her now.

Graham and his girlfriend, herself a policewoman (played by Katie Wall, above right) bicker and screw, odd locals pop in and out of the ersatz headquarters where Graham and other cops work, and we begin to get a picture of life in this rather strange community.

Yet that picture does not go very far or very deep. While the film is consistently interesting, it refuses to coalesce, and this cut-off experienced by the characters from each other and their own life, as well as what we viewers experience from the film itself, is intentional, I suspect. The noise of the title, the noise in Graham's head, the noise, static, distraction and disconnect of modern life makes it impossible for us all to properly connect. (Or not.)

That's what I got out of this odd film that offers little closure, but which I found, on balance, worth seeing. My spouse did not -- and unusual response from him to any film from Film Movement, the distributor that released this movie in the U.S. You can view it now via Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video, or on DVD.

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