Australian Screen

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Road to Nhill (1997)

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clip 'We all need to keep calm'

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

Clip description

While making his deliveries, stock and station agent Bob (Bill Hunter) has spotted the car of the local policeman parked outside a neighbouring farmhouse. Interviewed later, he suggests the policeman should be ‘carpeted’ for dereliction of duty. His wife Gwen (Denise Roberts) nods in agreement. In flashback, four lady bowlers are upside down in their upturned car, blinking and silent with shock. Margot (Lynette Curran) asks if everyone is alright. Carmel (Lois Ramsey) begins to panic about a fire. Local pig farmer Maurie (Paul Chubb) approaches in his truck. Bachelor farmer Brian (Bill Young) is spraying weeds, unaware of what has happened on the road beside his paddock. Nell (Monica Maughan) tries to calm the situation in the car.

Curator’s notes

The film is quite ambitious in terms of structure. This scene takes place in three time frames, flashing forward and back with confidence. It also uses documentary-style interviews, to give a sense of a story being told, as well as actually experienced. Bill Hunter’s opening comments give a very clear sense of the film’s great command of vernacular rhythms. Denise Roberts, as his wife, says a lot with her eyes, choosing not to interrupt her husband’s self-important oratory.

The film is acutely observant about the ways couples interact, and express themselves as couples, often to rich comic effect. The scene inside the car is also comical, although the situation is extremely serious. Filming them all upside down makes it comical, without destroying the tension, although it’s an edgy kind of comedy. The shots of the two men in the other vehicles break up the rhythm and the tension. They may also be used to suggest a casualness about the way some people drive in rural situations.

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