An Exercise in Discipline: Peel


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

An Exercise In Discipline - Peel
"Jane Campion’s debut short thrives on unpredictable rhythms."

Jane Campion’s debut short thrives on unpredictable rhythms. Right from the start, there’s the pounding sound of an orange bouncing off the windscreen of a car, given the echoey amplification of a ball in a school corridor by excellent sound design. Then there’s the cars that whoosh past at random intervals throughout its nine minutes, their closeness bringing a sense of additional threat. Not that there’s much need for extra menace given the occupants of this particular car.

The orange is being flung by a little boy (Ben Martin), his gingery hair recalling the colour of its peel. A brief title card clues us into his relationship with the driver and backseat passenger. At the wheel is his dad (Tim Pye), whose hair matches his son, while behind them sits the little boy’s aunt (Katie Pye).

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The peel of the title will soon be deposited out of the window by the kid, the camera holding close to his hand, emphasising it as an act of defiance. Dad is not best pleased, even though the youngster points out he’s just doing what he’s learned from him. The car is stopped, a battle of wills begins, the traffic continues to whoosh past.

Campion, in collaboration with cinematographer Sally Bongers, practises what the title preaches, there’s a disciplined approach here so that no shot feels wasted. The erratic mood of the father mirroring that of the kid, with the sister adding further fuel to the fire, her desperation to get home in time to watch Countdown at once ordinary and ridiculous. Orange flashes through the colour scheme, which along with matching eye colour strike the only note of harmony. The short is otherwise constructed with a staccato emphasis, allowing anxiety to gnaw at the edges when the little boy disappears from view, the sense of threat generated as much by lack of reaction as explosion, close shots of faces worthy of inclusion in a spaghetti western. Campion’s career began as she meant to go on, as she won the short film Palme d’Or at Cannes. It’s currently available to watch on MUBI until May 14 and well worth your time.

Reviewed on: 02 May 2024
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An Exercise in Discipline: Peel packshot
A battle of wills breaks out on a car journey.

Director: Jane Campion

Writer: Jane Campion

Starring: Tim Pye, Katie Pye, Ben Martin

Year: 1982

Runtime: 9 minutes

Country: Australia


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