The Proposition

The Proposition

DVD Rating: ****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Anton Bitel's film review of The Proposition

Essentially, there is a Making Of, a Behind The Scenes, a commentary and a couple of exclusive interviews. Not, you might think, a ripe package. However, trouble has been taken - serious trouble - and this turns out to be the best DVD extras showcase for many a long year. The only flaws are incidents of repetition between the Making Of and Behind The Scenes and the length - it does go on a bit.

I have never thought that watching DVD extras before the film is a good idea. In this case, I recommend it (excluding the commentary, of course), because where it was filmed and why and by whom matters in the general understanding of The Proposition's unique qualities.

Copy picture

What comes through the Making Of and Meet The Cast and Crew is the genuine admiration that everyone feels for director John Hillcoat and writer Nick Cave. For the English actors particularly, the heat and the flies were hard to bear, especially in their Victorian clothing.

The cast and crew of over 100 based themselves in Winton, six hours from the Queensland coast, a small town in the middle of nowhere, with a population of 750, and filmed in an area of desert scrubland and extraordinary rock formations less than half an hour away. John Hurt commented on how good the food was in their motel.

Hillcoat provided his actors with loads of historical background material. Guy Pearce admits that he was never convinced that what they were taught in school about Australia's heritage had much to do with the truth. The reality, as explored by Cave and Hillcoat, is tougher, nastier, infinitely less hospitable. The heat itself killed people, before bandits and black trackers finished them off. "Mostly they died in their twenties," actor David Wenham says. The clash of cultures between middle-class English Victorian sensibilities and the base survival instincts of the natives was absolute. Morality had no roots in this awsome landscape. "The good guys are bad," Danny Huston says. "And the bad guys are good." He plays a bad guy, whom he learns to respect. The simple black-and-white stereotypes of the American Western do to apply here.

"It's a difficult place for human tenderness to survive," Cave says

His reputation as a songwriter is huge in the music world. As a screenwriter, he is a beginner and what scared him was dialogue. He had never tried that before. The result is fresh, original, "beautifully written" (Hurt), "a wonderful storyteller, lyrical, beautiful, that's what drew me to the film" (Wenham) and "such a rock-and-roll read, such an epic feel to it" (Emily Watson).

He wrote the script in three weeks. "I had never been to the outback. I grew up in the country, but that's not the outback. I left Australia when I was 20." He loved the experience. "Lots of violence, no sex, my kind of film. Two thumbs up."

Hillcoat dominates the commentary and is very good - fascinating even. Cave talks about the music and occasionally is heard commenting with his dust-dry sense of humour, as if from a parallel universe. Finally, he scrapes back his chair. "I'm going to f**k off and have a fag. Can you keep this going until I get back?"

Hillcoat talks about the heat, how they had to shoot the opening scene in the corrugated shed at night, because during the day the equipment started to melt. Also, he noticed that the actors were being affected. "It slowed Ray down considerably." The other horror for Winstone was the flies. In one scene he loses it and rages at them.

Hillcoat has nothing but praise for his cast. "We had a week's rehearsal before we started and the way Ray and Emily explored the material was quite amazing. There was real chemistry between them and they are both extremely intuitive, intelligent actors."

Everything you see in the film is sets, which is hard to believe, as they are so realistic and evocative. Infinite care and detailed attention has been provided in all things. "There were 1000 different versions of that final line."

What was the final line?

"I want to be with my brother."

The Exclusive Interviews with Guy Pearce and Danny Huston are add-ons later and are certainly worth a listen. Pearce is particularly insightful and Huston oozes charm.

Reviewed on: 05 Aug 2006
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The Proposition packshot
In the 1880s, an Australian outlaw is offered a pardon if he tracks down and kills his psychotic elder brother.
Amazon link

Product Code: TVD3607

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround/Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo/DTS 5.1 Surround

Extras: Audio commentary by director John Hillcoat and writer Nick Cave; Making Of featurette; Meet The Cast and Crew; exclusive interviews with Guy Pearce and Danny Huston; trailer

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