Snowtown

Snowtown (Justin Kurzel, 2011) aka The Snowtown Murders; wr. Shaun Grant; Daniel Henshall, Lucas Pittaway

On my first attempt I watched only the first third of Snowtown and stopped it, thinking, correctly, that the rest would be hard going. It looked that far in to be a very good film indeed – tho that turned out not to be the case. (It's a completely different subject, but it reminded me anyway of Winter's Bone.)

Then I watched Snowtown with director Justin Kurzel’s commentary turned on. His preferred verbal tic is ‘you know’ – and there must be literally hundreds of them – but he also falls back frequently on ‘kind of’, ‘like’, ‘I guess’, ‘I mean’, and so on. So a doubly painful experience. Horrible film.

If we the audience are looking for a moral centre of the film in Jamie then we are doomed to disappointment, and that is one of the problems. The moral centre lies with us in the audience, on screen there is only madness. Margaret Pomeranz, At the Movies, ABC TV.

It was too confusing for too long and, again, as I said before, I think sometimes filmmakers have got to step back. They know what it's all about. We don't and they have to step back and look at it with a stranger's eye and say does this make sense? Having said that, though, I think the performances in this film are amazing; absolutely amazing. David Stratton, At the Movies, ABC TV (transcript).

Kurzel’s purpose is to bury the characters in a miasma of evil. Bunting enlists neighbors in kitchen table conversations about pedophiles and gays, and directs the talk about what should be done to them: “right? right?” I’m not sure if he actually cares about molestation and so on; it is simply a pretext to control the will of others and force them to murder through mind control. ... The Snowtown Murders is distressing and almost unbearably painful, the most frightening film about a psychopath I’ve seen. There is no way to understand John Bunting. He is quite bluntly an evil man. Roger Ebert.

Despite some genuine cinematic flashes, Kurzel and his team are unable to navigate the story with any clarity. We are left to our own devices to work out how Bunting suddenly appears in this lower working class family's life. We can't quite tell who is who, nor even who is being killed or why. Perhaps that's intentional - but it doesn't work as a cinematic story. Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile.

I have a profound concern about the film, whose characters portray such abhorrence and callousness, that there is little to feel but revulsion. ... There are also continuity issues, muddy dialogue and confusion about who is who in a muddle of characters. Missing dramatic elements additionally detract from the narrative. Louis Keller, Urban Cinefile.


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