The Proposition

2005

Director
John Hillcoat

Writer
Nick Cave

Production Companies
Autonomous
Jackie O Productions
Pictures in Paradise Pty. Ltd.
Surefire Film Productions LLP

Distribution
A-Film Distribution (2005) (Netherlands) (theatrical)
Califsrnia Home Vmdeo (2006) (Brazil) (VHS) (DVD)
Columbia TriStar (2005) (Australia) (theatrical)
First Look Home Entertainment (2005) (USA) (DVD)
First Look Pictures Releasing (2006) (USA) (theatrical)
Russian Report (2006) (Russia) (all media)

Technical Specifications
Format: 35 mm
Cinematographic process: Super 35
Printed Film Format: 35 mm anamorphic
Aspect ratio: 2.35 : 1

Cast

 

Boris Brkic

Officer Holloway

Bryan Probets

Officer Dunn

Danny Huston

Aurther Burns

David Gulpilil

 

David Wenham

Eden Fletcher

Emily Watson

Martha Stanley

Garry Waddell

Officer Davenport

Guy Pearce

Charlie Burns

Iain Gardiner

Officer Matthews

John Hurt

Jellon Lamb

Leah Purcell

 

Noah Taylor

Brian O'Leary

Ray Winstone

Captain Stanley

Richard Wilson

Mike Burns

Robert Morgan

Sgt Lawrence

Tom Budge

Samuel Stote

Tommy Lewis

 

Crew

 

Anthony Faust

adr mixer

Ted Swanscott

adr mixer

Nick Foley

adr recordist

Chris Goodes

adr recordist

Andrew Neil

adr recordist

Brendan Donnison

adr voice casting

Kim Prentice

art department assistant

Bill Booth

art direction

Marita Mussett

art direction

Nicki Ellis

assistant production coordinator

Andrew Hardwick

assistant production coordinator

Anna Bertmark

assistant sound editor

Mark Appleby

assistant sound re-recording mixer

Jessie Taylor

assistant sound re-recording mixer

Nathalia Rayfield

assistant to producer

Pam Collis

associate producer

Christopher Simon

associate producer

Nikki Barrett

casting

Gary Davy

casting

Benont Delhomme

cinematographer

Lee Mariano

clapper loader

Margot Wilson

costume design

Alison Bown

dialogue editor

Simon Finney

director of photography: second unit

Jon Gregory

editor

Ian Seymour

editor

James Atherton

executive producer

Chris Auty

executive producer

Sara Giles

executive producer

Michael Hamlyn

executive producer

Michael Henry

executive producer

Norman Humphrey

executive producer

Robert Jones

executive producer

Sophie Siomos

financial controller

Darren Mallett

first assistant director

James Hamilton

foley editor

Zeljka Stanin

hair stylist: Guy Pearce

Neil Peplow

head of production

Ric Anderson

horsemaster

Anita Lowe

key hair stylist

Sally Gordon

key makeup artist

Tony Clarke

location manager

Lea Dixon

makeup artist

Bronwyn Fitzgerald

makeup artist

Zeljka Stanin

makeup artist: Guy Pearce

Sally Gordon

makeup designer

Gerard McCann

music editor

Jake Jackson

music scoring mixer

Gerard McCann

music supervisor

Rachel James

post-production accountant

Chris Brown

producer

Chiara Menage

producer

Jackie O'Sullivan

producer

Cat Villiers

producer

Jennifer Des Champs

production coordinator

Chris Kennedy

production design

Steve Taylor

property master

Annalise Davis

research assistant

Lucy Whitton

researcher

Michael Larcombe

scorpio technician

Geoffrey Cox

script editor

Jill Eden

set decoration

Marko Anttonen

set designer

Martha Murphy Badger

singer

Nick Cave

singer

Jack Gillies

sound effects editor

Richard Davey

sound re-recording mixer

Kerry Brown

still photographer

Ric Anderson

stunt coordinator

Angela Moore

stunt double

Ian Morgan

supervising dialogue & adr editor

Paul Davies

supervising sound editor

Ratings

                        MPAA – R for strong grisly violence and language
                        Australia -  MA
                        Finland – K-15
                        Ireland – 16
                        New Zealand – R16
                        Norway – 15
                        Sweden – 15
                        UK – 18

Awards

Australian Film Institute

Year

Result

Award

Category/Recipient(s)

2005

Won

AFI Award

Best Cinematography
Benont Delhomme

Best Costume Design
Margot Wilson

Best Original Music Score
Nick Cave
Warren Ellis

Best Production Design
Chris Kennedy

Nominated

AFI Award

Best Direction
John Hillcoat

Best Editing
Jon Gregory

Best Film
Chris Brown
Jackie O'Sullivan
Chiara Menage
Cat Villiers

Best Lead Actor
Guy Pearce

Best Lead Actor
Ray Winstone

Best Screenplay, Original
Nick Cave

Best Sound
Craig Walmsley
Paul Davies
Richard Davey
Ian Morgan

Best Supporting Actor
John Hurt

 

Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards

Year

Result

Award

Category/Recipient(s)

2005

Won

FCCA Award

Best Cinematography
Benont Delhomme

Best Musical Score
Nick Cave
Warren Ellis

 

IF Awards

Year

Result

Award

Category/Recipient(s)

2005

Won

IF Award

Best Cinematography
Benont Delhomme

Best Feature Film
John Hillcoat (director)
Chris Brown (producer)
Jackie O'Sullivan (producer)
Chiara Menage (producer)
Cat Villiers (producer)

Best Music
Nick Cave
Warren Ellis

Best Production Design
Chris Kennedy

Nominated

IF Award

Best Actor
Guy Pearce

Best Actress
Emily Watson

Best Direction
John Hillcoat

Best Editing
Jon Gregory

Best Script
Nick Cave

 Table taken from the Internet Film Database

 

Promotional Trailers

  film.virgin.net
 www.movie-list.com
 www.moviecentre.net
 www.trailerdownload.net
 www.ultimatedvd.org

 

Reviews

www.hollywoodreporter.com[Kirk Honeycutt]
Variety.com [Richard Kuipers]
Guardian/Observer
BBCi - Films
eye WEEKLY [Jason Anderson]
Reel.com [Pam Grady]
Tiscali UK
Urban Cinefile (Australia)
In Film Australia
Bina007 Movie Reviews
Darkmatters [Matt Adcock]
eFilmCritic Reviews
The London Times [James Christopher]
Film Freak Central Review [Alex Jackson]
hoopla.nu
Qwipster's Movie Reviews [Vince Leo]
Nerve [Adam Ford]
Cinema Blend [Edward Darell]
Philadelphia City Paper [Sam Adams]
eFilmCritic [Scott Weinberg]
Eric D. Snider
FilmExposed Magazine
Film Freak Central Review [Alex Jackson]
FilmJudge.co.uk
Floatation Suite [Sheila Seacroft]
Future Movies [Paul Gallagher]
Jigsaw Lounge [Neil Young]
The Lumihre Reader
Movie Vault [Avril Carruthers]
moviereview [Colin Fraser]
musicOMH.com
Real Political Face Talk
Reel Film Reviews [David Nusair]
Slant Magazine [Nick Schager]
The Blurb Magazine [David Edwards]
The Cinematheque [Kevyn Knox]
The Red Right Hand [Matt Stogdon]
Total Film
Twitch
UKscreen [Jason Korsner]
Interviews and The Proposition Online
Interview w/ Nick Cave and John Hillcoat
http://www.futuremovies.co.uk/filmmaking.asp?ID=159
http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=10949&s=Interviews
Interview w/ Guy Pearce
http://www.futuremovies.co.uk/filmmaking.asp?ID=160
http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=10946&s=Interviews
 Links:
Joblo.com
Hollywood Stock Exchange
Monsters and Critics
Cinematic Intelligence Agency
AceShowbiz.com
Box Office Mojo
Boxofficeprophets
Comingsoon.net
DVDwolf
Future Movies - Nick Cave and John Hillcoat Interview
ioncinema.com Preview
Laqat.com - News
MovieboX.se (swedish)
RopeofSilicon
Up4U
Urban Cinefile (Australia) - Guy Pearce interview [Andrew L. Urban]
Urban Cinefile (Australia) - Hillcoat & Cave interview [Andrew L. Urban]
Urban Cinefile (Australia) - Visualising an Australian Western [John Hillcoat]
Zelluloid.de (German)

 

UK Box Office Figures

 

Date

#

Screens

Opening Weekend

12 March 2006

205,594

118

Weekend

19 March 2006

104,892

115

Gross

12 March 2006

205,594

 

Gross

19 March 2006

446,092

 

Release Dates

Country

Date

Market

France

11 May 2005

Cannes Film Market

Canada

12 September 2005

Toronto Film Festival

Australia

24 September 2005

Winton (premiere)

Australia

6 October 2005

 

Germany

13 February 2006

Berlin International Film Festival

USA

15 February 2006

Portland International Film Festival

Sweden

24 February 2006

 

UK

10 March 2006

 

Finland

31 March 2006

 

Russia

20 April 2006

limited

USA

22 April 2006

Newport Beach International Film Festival

USA

5 May 2006

New York City, New York

Critical Analysis

            The Proposition is an Australian western that explores the bleakness of a situation and presents a moral choice that seemingly destroys the notions of morality.  The film is beautiful while at the same time gruesome and as unrelenting as the landscape in which it is home. 
The opening credits give way at once to a brutal gunfight, more like a chicken shoot.  From there the titular proposition is laid out, the protagonist must sacrifice one brother for the life of another.   It is the story of Charlie Burns, the middle brother in the Burns gang, a violent trio of Irish brothers that have ravaged the frontier of 19th century Australia.  In the midst of his moral dilemma, the frontier town works to carve their way into the inhospitable landscape. 
At its roots, The Proposition is a bushranger story.  The plot is Charlie Burns riding his horse through the bush to save his little brother.   However using this vehicle, the film tackles the deeper issues of the white settlement of Australia.  The complex characters of Captain and Mrs. Stanley contrast with those of the aboriginal characters.  The characters themselves contrast with the traditional depictions of their stereotypes.  This is the director’s attempt to show the “true” settlement, the real relationship between the settlers and the settled.  Mrs. Stanley is not the typical western woman, the stalwart symbol of morality and nonviolence.  She instead encourages the lashing of Mike Burns, she even watches it.  Granted she faints and reassumes the role of the fragile woman but she has lost her high position on moral grounds.  It is also significant that unlike many the John Wayne style western, Captain Stanley is not the redeeming character, the hero is not the good guy in this case.  Although he fights against the wealthy tyrant he fails to secure the safety of the town, to showdown the outlaw at high noon per say.  It is Charlie Burns, the outlaw, who ends the violence and who protects Mrs. Stanley, even if it is not his specific aim. 
Charlie’s character displays the generic traits of the western character.  He is a man of the land, he rides into the desert on his horse with nothing behind him and only peril in front of him.  He is in the impossible situation of having to choose between the lives of his older brother of that of his younger brother.  His proposition demonstrates the harshness of life in on the frontier; that morality does not quite fit in the gorges and cliffs of the outback as neatly as it does the painted boxes of the cities.   One notable scene is that of the night before he is speared by the aboriginals.  In the sequence of night shots Charlie is brazen with the symbol of the western, the gun.  He waves the gun around, his silhouette melding as if the gun was an extension of his hand.  This generic theme is then continued with the dialogue between Charlie and Brian and the ensuing punches over the gun. 
Much as in the contemporary Australian western, Ned Kelly, “the gun” in The Proposition is taken up by Charlie as a necessity.  Unlike the law officers who drunkenly handle and go over the gun, Charlie is painted to want peace - both for himself and Mike.)  Where the officers seemingly shoot wontedly and use the gun as symbol as status, Charlie only shoots in self-protection at the beginning and at the close of the film to end the violence.  His brandishing of his gun is at odds with his seeming desire for a peaceful life.  In these visuals, the director seems to emphasis the perversion of life necessary to survive in the outback, a perversion that eventually leads to murdering your own brother. 
Another perversion with which the film deals is that of the aboriginal population.  As common in the Australian western, an aboriginal sidekick must help the out of place white man.  Played by David Gulpilil, this character is not the prisoner helping the white man cross the desert, he helps him rid the desert of the aboriginals.  He has turned from an aboriginal to a settler, clearly evident in the scene in which the other black companion tells him he has his life back, as he is seen dead. 
In another departure, the film shows the aboriginals as not tolerant or acquiescent to the settlers.  Although they are still depicted as being dominated, they fight back; they have a say.  They spear the white man who intrudes into their land; they take a life for a life.  This depiction has much to do with the location of filming, Queensland.  With Australian law seeking to protect the aboriginal culture and the reality of the treatment of aboriginals a historical issue it is logical that a western would address these issues.  The changing policy towards aboriginals and the attempt to reconcile with the past would seem to have much influence on the depiction of the clash of cultures in the film. 
 The filming took place in remote Queensland in the height of summer.  The harshness of the locations comes across in the film, most notably in the presence of a myriad of flies.  The cruelness of the location adds to the reality of struggle while still providing the beautiful epic landscapes of Australia.  The cinematography is vastly affected by the use of an outside to the Australian landscape.  Not being familiar with the outback, the shots are much like those of an awed viewer, one captivated by the vast desert.  This lends depth to the awkwardness of the Stanley’s entrance into the outback. 
This was Hillcoat’s third feature film, his other work being in music videos.  Although his pervious two films are not westerns, they are violent and focus on men who are struggling.  In Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, it is a struggle of prison gangs and in To Have and to Hold, it is of a man tormented by the loss of his wife.  Hillcoat not only directed Ghost… of the Civil Dead but is credited for the screenplay as well.  It was written in collaboration with the writer of The Proposition, Nick Cave.  Cave, a talented composer as well, wrote the screenplay for Hillcoat as their third collaboration.  Cave also composed the soundtrack for The Proposition.  Cave’s musical background is noticeable in the montages of violence that are tied together through song.  Hillcoat’s background in music videos also lends to making The Proposition seems slightly like an epic music video.  Not a musical in any sense, the score drives the emotion in the film, and enhances the dramatic cinematography. 
 The music and cinematography earned the film critical acclaim in Australia.  Critics also praised the performances of the key actors, notably Guy Pierce.  His performance as well as those of the other actors is what makes the film a success.  As the western has been done before, and often in a more concise and entertaining manner, it is the acting, cinematography, and soundtrack, which sets this film apart.  It could be that Australia is proud of its musical talent, Nick Cave.  In any case, a well-written and shot film while violent is entertaining.   It will be interesting to follow the US release as the western’s home is typically in the United States. 
The Proposition is an ambitious film.  It attempts to tackle morality, settlement, and justice.  It is a western with no clear good guys or bad guys.  It is an Australian film that is reminiscent of old American cowboy flicks.  For an Australian film, it is not unusual that The Proposition has such acute themes as its center.  It is a large film, epic in it setting, detailed in its costuming but with a fairly untested director.  Although the film was successful in Australia, apparent in its awards, it may not have the success of a blockbuster in the United States where it is soon to be released.  However, the quality of the filming and the familiar generic qualities of the western may give the film the audience base it needs to make an impact.  If this happens, it will be a nod toward Australian cinema and will work to further the career of Guy Pierce undoubtedly.  With overseas success, The Proposition could make it easier for imposing dramas to come out of Australia.  The Proposition, Nick Cave, and Guy Pierce are definitely bits of Australian cinema worth following, and bits that will have a further impact on cinema globally.