Hey guys, would really appreciate feedback on this ASAP!
Context is the Imaginative Landscape. Text is One Night the Moon (obviously).
Even if you haven't studied this context, I would really love any thoughts about the form/expression.
IF Magazine • Feature
“One Night the Moon” (2001) is an Australian dramatic musical which encapsulates the complexity of Australian relationships, both with the landscape and with each other. Inspired by the documentary, “Black Tracker” (1997) about Aboriginal tracker Alex Riley, this beautifully crafted film demonstrates how it is not always people, rather the nature itself, which can leave the deepest imprint upon our lives. Depicting the turmoil brought about by deeply entrenched prejudice and lethal arrogance, this film offers new insight into the tumultuous history between Aboriginal and European Australians. Director Rachel Perkins joins me for an exclusive interview to explain her thoughts about the film’s music, setting and convoluted relationships.
Karen Williams: Welcome, Rachel Perkins. I found “One Night the Moon” to be an inimitable take on a somewhat clichéd issue of a lost child. Deeply poetic, this film sheds a new light on the struggle between man and nature, as well as the enduring battle of Aboriginal and European Australians. Do you think this is largely due to the musical nature of the film?
Rachel Perkins: To some extent, yes. I believe music allows the audience to connect to the emotional side of the film in ways they otherwise would not. Specifically, I believe Paul Kelly’s song “I Don’t Know Anything Anymore” opens the story in an eloquently powerful way, emphasising the intricacies of the feelings of regret, guilt and sorrow which are all so prevalent throughout the film, as his character “drove all kindness from [his] door”. However, I think the music is only one side of it. The setting that was used in this film has a far more important role. It takes on a character itself, allowing us to use it to propel the film forward in ways only a landscape can.
KW: So the landscape choice was fundamental then? How did you bring it to life and allow it to “take on a character”?
RP: Yes, we filmed in the Flinders’ Ranges in South Australia, which was a perfect combination of powerful, deadly cliffs and open plains. I was heavily influenced by the Australian film “Picnic at Hanging Rock”, which utilises an uneasy setting of treacherous rocks to create a tense, frightening atmosphere. In “One Night the Moon”, the diversity of the land is what allowed us to use it to fuel so many different aspects of it. Moreover, the way each scene was shot could also allow us to alter the moods felt when each character was interacting with the environment. For example, using a bright, full moon to illuminate the hills when the child was wandering at night gave the landscape an enchanting, mysterious feel that drew the audience in along with the child. In this way, we were able to show that, though the land was ultimately fatal, each character was able to form a different relationship with it.
KW: What about Paul’s character, Jim? How did you manage to portray such an uncomfortable relationship with his environment throughout the whole film?
RP: With Jim, we had to depict the landscape as a force that effectively stole his child, ruined his marriage and ultimately acted as the catalyst for taking his own life. This was extremely difficult, as the land was a loving home to others in the film. We employed various wide, long shots and low camera angles to emphasize the magnitude of the land. The climactic scene where Jim falls down part of the cliff and breaks down shows the unforgiving grip the land had on his life. Kelly acted this scene brilliantly; the raw emotion on his face showed the audience the true extent of his devastation, while the dirt still clung to his face as a reminder of nature’s permanent mark on his life.
KW: Why do you think there is such a difference in the way Albert and Jim view the same spread of land? Do you believe this is an accurate representation of the cultural difference between Aboriginal and European Australians?
RP: I think that Albert, having grown up learning the intricacies of the landscape, felt much safer in it than Jim. Coming from another country, a young family simply did not have the experience to truly feel at home in a daunting new terrain full of unexpected surprises. I think, to some extent, the Aboriginal community have much more of a spiritual bond to the land, simply because this connection has been passed on from generation to generation. Though this is does not always differentiate between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals, it simply illustrates that those who understand the landscape are going to view it much more fondly than those who do not trust it. This is evident when Albert and Jim sing their duet “This Land is mine”, and Jim claims ownership over his environment because he “signed on the dotted line”, whereas Albert felt the “land owns [him]”. I think no matter where you run into it, attempting to control nature can have disastrous effects, while aspiring for harmony between nature and oneself results in a much more stable balance between the two.
KW: It is shown in “One Night the Moon” that although Albert’s strong connection with the land ultimately leads the family to the lost child, it is also the same connection which alienates him from the white community. As both a director and a woman with Aboriginal heritage, how did you handle this complex relationship?
RP: This was one of the more challenging aspects of directing this film. Watching my father, Charlie Perkins, fight for the rights of our people for most of his life – well, this part hit pretty close to home. It’s challenging because Aboriginal communities do have such a strong affiliation to the land, and for people to try and throw them off it, as Jim does to Albert, is most degrading. That spiritual connection, inbred in many Aboriginals, is not something that is commonly understood. Throughout history, Aboriginal people have shown to live with the environment rather than against it, yet this was not always in accordance with the European way of thinking. Thus, many Aboriginals were removed from their land simply because their ties to it were not readily comprehended. Ultimately, however, we see in the film that it is this abstruse, implicit connection that allows Emily’s body to be found, brought about by generations of men and women who understood the land. This exemplifies how the Australian landscape helped to shape our Aboriginal heritage and culture.
KW: Well, thank you for your time; it’s been most worthwhile discovering a little more about this poignant film, and how a single landscape can have such a diverse effect on the lives of its inhabitants.
RP: It’s been my pleasure.