Powerful Drama Simply Told. Fell Is Astounding And Harrowingly Beautiful.
Shot deep in the Victorian hinterland, in a starkly beautiful forest full of ancient and ominous trees, MIFF Accelerator graduate Kasimir Burgess’ debut feature Fell, after a clutch of award-winning shorts, is an incredible achievement, fraught with emotional turmoil, the agony of a vengeant and broken heart.
Premiering in competition at this year’s Sydney Film Festival before moving over to MIFF, Fell is currently the midst of a limited run at ACMI, and it’s well worth catching the calling card of a daring filmmaker who shows all the signs of a fascinating career ahead of him.
There’s a faint echo of fellow Australian indie Canopy, but whereas that film held the viewer steadfastly removed from the plight of its characters, here we’re inextricably embroiled in their unravelling lives.
Ruggedly handsome former Rugby League player Matt Nable puts in a deftly nuanced turn as doting father Thomas, who takes his young daughter on a trip deep into the woods. Tragedy strikes, quite literally, when Daniel Henshall’s (Snowtown, These final Hours) lumberjack Luke accidentally kills her and then, panicking, flees the scene.
Penned by short film writer/director Natasha Pincus, what follows is an impressively well-judged portrait of grief and the affects on a father left behind. Admirably, Fell avoids painting Luke as a cartoon villain. Though he ran, ultimately he serves his time, during which he’s separated from his own newborn daughter and returns wracked with guilt and hoping for redemption.
While trying to pick up the pieces of his life five years later, a broken Thomas has retreated to a secluded life deep within the same cursed forest, with both men soon finding themselves working side by side in a logging camp. The tension is almost unbearable as Thomas is confronted with both the possibility of taking an eye for an eye, but also forced to face the consequences as Luke’s young daughter joins them. Who knew there could be such power in a mundane shot as the two men sit in adjacent toilet cubicles?
A simple story powerfully told, what raises Fell above even the magnificent central performances and Pincus’ well-crafted screenplay is the haunting cinematography of Marden Dean (The Infinite Man), another fine talent. There’s an almost Lynchian, dream like quality that so nearly tips into nightmare, with fire and blood and still bodies under water, and yet this rage is always just contained, countered by the Malick-like beauty of nature holding back the darkness. Astounding assured stuff.
Stephen A Russell
Fell is showing at ACMI until September 27. For further screening, check here.