Unity in Adversity
Review of Everynight ... Everynight

Catherine Simpson

Director: Alkinos Tsilimidos
Producer: Alkinos Tsilimidos
Screenplay: Ray Mooney, Alkinos Tsilimidos
Cinematographer: Toby Olive
Editor: Cindy Clarkson
Cast: David Field, Bill Hunter, Robert Morgan, Phil Motherwell, Jim Daly
16mm/1994/92mins

This raw-edged, gruelling debut feature from writer/director Alkinos Tsilimidos jolts you into the violent and oppressive realm of our correctional system. Set in the infamous maximum security H Division of Pentridge Prison, Everynight ... Everynight depicts Dale's (David Field) and other inmates' violent and sadistic beatings and psychological traumas at the hands of depraved prison officers, particularly Officer Berriman, superbly played by Bill Hunter.

Everynight ... Everynight was written in collaboration with Ray Mooney whose play, depicting his real-life experiences at Pentridge Prison, formed the basis of the script. As the film opens the audience learns that Dale, a remandee, is awaiting a court hearing and yet to be sentenced, highlighting the horrific injustice of the repeated beatings he's subjected to. Although the first depicted beating lasts less than 3 minutes of screen time, the actual beating it was based on allegedly lasted a gruelling 7 hours.

Initially Dale submits to the psychological and physical traumas of his situation. By day they attempt to break his spirit and sanity by forcing him to smash blue-stone with a pick, invoking popular images of our convict heritage, while another inmate is compelled to perform more demeaning behaviour such as licking faeces off toilet doors. Gradually Dale becomes indifferent to the bashings and Benthamite horrors of H Division life and develops an alternative, subversive way to exist and express his rage.

At one point Dale is depicted pacing his cell naked and mumbling incoherently. It seems as if the ego shattering experience has forced him to the verge of insanity. It's not until he claims : "I've resigned from this life" and urges the other inmates to do so as well, that we see method in his madness. By refusing to play the dehumanising prison game anymore the screws have lost their threat of psychological and physical suppression over him and he in turn has reaffirmed the power of the simple utterance of which he can never be deprived. Although contact between the inmates is strictly forbidden at night they manage to shout and finally communicate through the prison walls."Unity in adversity!", Dale shouts beginning a chant which reverberates throughout the cells. Meanwhile Berriman, realising the threat of pure violence or psychological abuse is no longer effective starts to panic.

As Dale walks defiantly from the prison in the last scene to be tried, the failure of the correctional system to produce docile, disciplined bodies pulls its last punch. Even if the system has enframed Dale he has maintained his sanity and his voice.

Produced independently and made with virtually no money. Everynight ... Everynight was shot on location in unused portions of Geelong prison in 16 days. The use of black and white, 16mm film was no doubt a necessity for Tsilimidos but the final product is well conceived and reveals skilful direction; the stark and gritty images add impact to the realism creating a dark, brooding atmosphere while the unforgiving character portrayals allow for no soft edges or happy endings. Bill Hunter's Berriman recalls his portrayal of a power-mongering psychiatric asylum warden in Esben Storm's 27A (1974). This film addressed the barbarity of a code of the Queensland Health Act under which a person could be held indefinitely in an asylum at the state's will.

Everynight ... Everynight also recalls other Australian prison feature films; notably Stephen Wallace's Stir (1980) about the confrontation between prisoners and wardens in Bathhurst prison made in a social realist vein. More recently John Hillcoat's Ghosts of the Civil Dead (John Hillcoat, 1989) and the studio film, Fortress (Stuart Gordon, 1994) offer a more futuristic, hyperreal vision of life inside the 'new generation' maximum security (American?) gaols. The aid of modern surveillance technology has enabled Bentham's theory of the Panopticon to be fully realised in the form of constant surveillance by the omniscient gaze of electronic eyes; both films portray a disturbing vision of the future.

The power of Tsilimidos' feature lies in the fact that in the age when big budgets, special effects and constant spectacle seem to achieve the greatest impact, Everynight ... Everynight leaves your emotions drained and your body reverberating solely through convincing performances, exemplary direction, and slick camera artifice and editing.

Copyright Catherine Simpson. All rights reserved. Redistribution for profit prohibited. Copies must include this notice.


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