Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Death in Brunswick (1990)

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clip Company for Mrs De Marco

Original classification rating: M. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

After the accidental death of Mustafa, Carl (Sam Neill) calls his best friend Dave (John Clarke) for help. Dave is a gravedigger, so they take the body to a cemetery, where Dave selects an open grave, in which to place the body. Carl falls into the hole, and is distressed to find that there’s someone else already in occupation. Dave gets on with necessary preparations as Carl fights his urge to throw up.

Curator’s notes

The film went from being potentially charming to explosively funny with the casting of John Clarke as Dave the gravedigger. In contrast to the nightclub, where everyone constantly argues and fights, Dave is a paragon of true friendship. He risks his liberty to help a mate hide a body, because that’s what mates do. Dave is also a paragon when it comes to practical work, while Carl is hopeless – ‘like a chook in a thunderstorm’, as Dave says in an earlier scene. Dave has no fear of a dead body; Carl is a scaredy-cat in the dark, and completely squeamish when confronted with the remains of Mrs De Marco.

Their burying of Mustafa, after Dave has ‘made room’ for him with Mrs De Marco, is probably the scene that made the film a popular success. It’s a classic piece of black humour, taken way past the point we expect in a comedy, and it’s executed with superb timing and finesse, especially in the placement of the camera to emphasise the depth of the hole. The scene was filmed in Brighton Cemetery in a specially constructed and reinforced hole, in order to get that extra depth.

Sam Neill and John Clarke, while both New Zealanders, are playing two Australians here. They were friends in real life, having met as university students in New Zealand. Clarke has lived in Australia since the 1970s.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

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