BLACKROCK

One party. One witness. No one’s talking.’’

Film Information

Director

Steven Vidler

Principal Cast and Crew

(For full cast and crew see links page or go to http://us.imdb.com/Details?0118735)

Screenwriter Nick Enright (Based upon his Stage play)

Producers David Elfick

Rick Enright (co-producer)

Melanie Ritchie

Cinematographer Martin McGrath

Production Company Palm Beach Pictures in Association with PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

Principle Cast (In Alphabetical Order)

Laurence Breuls ...Jared

Justine Clark ...Tiffany

Jeanette Cronin ...Lesley Warner

Linda Cropper ...Dianne

Essie Davies .Det.Gilhooley

David Field ..Ken Warner

Chris Haywood ...Det Sgt Wilansky

Simon Lyndon ...Ricko

Jessica Napier ...Rachel Ackland

Boyana Novakovic ...Tracy Warner

Rebecca Smart ...Cherie

Blackrock Dates and Details

Production for, blackrock, took place on the coast of New South Wales between August 1996 and February 1997. It was released in Australia on the 1st of May 1997. Its gross box office takings was one point one million dollars.

 

Bibliographical Details of Interviews With Filmmakers

As such, no full interviews with filmmakers could be found on either the internet prior to or subsequent to the release of, blackrock. The only piece of journalism with some form of interview content was an article in, The Australian. (Day and month not supplied), which may also be found on the IMDB( Internet Movie Data Base) The article, written by film reviewer Evan Williams, contains a quote from Steven Vidler, director, and David Elfick, writer, in relation to the events that occurred in the film.

‘Vidler has been quoted as saying that the murder is, "almost inevitable" , like a Greek tragedy.’(Williams, The Australian an IMDB)

and

‘David Elfick believes that "a partial explanation lies with the natural hedonism of today’s youth, fuelled by drugs and alcohol and the marketing of teenage sexual imagery."’ (Williams, The Australian & IMDB)

These were the only form of interviews that seem to be attainable.

Bibliographical Details of Reviews

There is only two, English language, noticeable reviews, both found on the IMBD website.

Blackrock’s Online Presence

Information on, blackrock, presiding on the net seems to be only on the IMDB website. Other film related websites did not contain any information on, blackrock. Such websites include the ‘The Culture and Communication reading room. The websites for, ‘The Australian Film Commission’ and ‘The Australian Film Institute,’ were accessible, therefore it is unknown whether information on this film exists within them.

Detail on Information Collection

Information for, blackrock, was mostly collected by a number of internet searches, The Australian from the 1st of May 1997 and library searches. The majority of information was found on the IMDB website and from the credits from the film itself. A search was completed for a copy of the stage play, blackrock, also written by Nick Enright but that was also not available. Blackrock, may be seen as lacking in overall coverage.

Critical Review of blackrock and its Literature

‘One party. One witness. No one’s talking,’ is the tagline for, blackrock. Blackrock, directed by Steven Vidler, is a classic Australian drama based upon the stage play by Nick Enright. The plot outline for the film is the fatal bashing and rape of a fifteen year old girl, on the beach, during a party. There is one witness, a male surfer, who won’t say anything do to loyalty to his mates.

Blackrock, is set in Newcastle which is situated on the coast of New South Wales in Australia. It places a significant focus around the stereotypical youth, surf culture which is seen to exist within Australian society. The film begins with Tracy Warner, who is later the rape and murder victim, leaping off the jetty and onto the ferry that is starting to pull away. Showing this first element of ‘risk taking,’ the teenager portrays the ‘risk taking nature of those that exist within the group of friends, who exist as part of this surf culture.

The story actually begins when the main protagonist, Jarred (Lawrence Bruels), sees the return of his life time best friend ‘Ricko’ (Simon Lyndon). Ricko is a surfy nomad, who has just come from a surfing jaunt up the coast. To honour Ricko’s arrival Jarred holds a welcome home party for him. It is complete with alcohol, scantly clad females and local Australian band Sidewinder. As the party continues Jarred, without his girlfriend Rachel (Jessica Napier), ends up dancing with Tracy Warner. Toby (Heath Ledger), Rachel’s brother who is also after Tracy, ends up throwing punches at Jarred. They have a fight and Jarred leaves his own party. Whilst contemplating life on a rock Jarred witnesses the rape of Tracy by his mates. Jarred just watches and doesn’t help.

The next morning Jarred awakes to find out that Tracy is dead, discovered by his girlfriend Rachel. He still doesn’t reveal what he’s witnessed. The rest of the film shows Jarred’s downward spiral and internal conflict with the situation of telling the truth or loyalty to his surfer mates. It isn’t until the very last few scenes where he admits to what he saw. Even when the boys are charged and Ricko tells him it was him that killed the girl, but it was only an accident, he doesn’t tell the police what he knows. It isn’t until the police show him the pictures of how brutally Tracy was murdered does he admit to hsi knowledge on the situation. His confession results in his bestfriend jumping off a cliff onto the edge of the sea. One might say staying true to the surf culture. This sends Jarred further inward, disheartened and lacking in trust and loyalty to everyone, whether it be girlfriend, friends or family.

There is also a subplot apparent in the film. This is of the Jarred’s single mother, Dianne’s (Linda Cropper), struggle with the detection of cancer in her breast. She is not only dealing with breast cancer but with a son who ignores her to the point where he doesn’t even know she is sick. Even when he eventually realises and goes to see her in hospital he is still detattached from her and shows minimal sympathy. This subplot shows a woman who is constantly suffering loss. Her husband, her body and her son. The writer portrays this in a very moving line that Dianne speaks to Jarred , ‘I lost you that night didn’t I (Dianne, blackrock)’ This line really ties the two plots together succinctly.

There is a second subplot and that focuses on Tracy’s angry friend Cherie (Rebecca Smart). It shows Cherie’s struggle in coming to terms with death and in particular Tracy’s death. The film ends with Dianne, Jarred and Cherie cleaning the word ‘SLUT’ from Tracy’s head stone. This brings a form of closure to the three plots.

Blackrock, is quite a disturbing coming of age film. It contains the elements of the protagonist’s internal conflict with life, sex, friends, fitting in, but with an ending that, although seems closed at the time of viewing, does not seem as closed when reflected upon. The fact that the protagonist defends his friend, even after he is dead, is sickeningly disturbing. Jarred states to Tracy’s parents when they told him they saw him at Ricko’s send off, ‘Tracy got a funeral why shouldn’t Ricko.’ (Jarred, blackrock) Although Jarred eventually did reveal what he knew, a line such as this may make an audience wonder if he was more upset with the fact that his friend murdered an innocent girl or the fact that he best friend was dead.

The cinematography in the film uses a number of wide angled shots of the landscape. Throughout the film the audience will see establishing shots of the ocean, the coast line, the cliffs and the cemetery. This repetitiveness of the landscape shots, symbolises the nature of the importance of the land and specifically the ocean to his culture. Repetitiveness is often used as a tool to create mood in the duration of the film. An example is the news helicopter that is apparent in a number of scenes. Often one will see the shot of the helicopter and then a wide angle landscape shot, as if coming form the camera of the news man within it. Repetition is also used in Jarred’s flashbacks of what he saw on the beach. This proves to be quite an emotive technique.

Blackrock , released May 1st 1997, may be seen as not acquiring copious amounts of critical uptake. The, Australian’s, Evan Williams’s review is really about the only attainable piece of journalism that may be currently found. Williams states that,

‘The "inspiration" for the story...was the rape and murder of a Newcastle teenager, Leigh, after a surf club party in 1991.’ (Williams, The Australian & IMDB)

He also writes that the director and writer place high emphasis that the film is fictional, but he is not convinced as the film is made in Newcastle. Williams’s article focuses largely on the idea that the film was trying to portray the point that,

‘What we need is more attention to family and school life and emphasis on frantic partying and jarringly edited sexual revels.’ (Williams, The Australian and IMBD)

He finishes up his article trying to figure out the source of Ricko’s murderous roots but is left unanswered believing that Ricko is just, ‘evil.’

Williams critique of, blackrock, portrays a brilliant point that Ricko’s murderous ways are unfounded. This lack of unfoundedness, especially for the audience, is what makes the film so disturbing. Although understanding is sought through Jarred, who is also unmoralistic, it is never reached. One is left with the thought, ‘Is Ricko evil? and,’ Are there people out there without morals?’ William makes a valid point which sums up Vidler’s film that ,

‘We are back at last in the real world - ugly and dispairing though this one proves to be.’ (Williams, The Australian and IMBD)

Blackrock, is not a first for Nick Enright who also wrote the drama, Lorenzo’s Oil, it was however the debut film for Steven Vidler, as a director. Although he is far from a newbian in the world of film. His prior and subsequent work as an actor holds the likes of such titles as, Sugar Hills in The Good Wife (, Steve Kingsley in Halifax:Hard Corps (TV), and most recently as Michael/The Man in Two Hands(1999). Two Hands, stars a number of actors that presided in, blackrock,. The main protagonist in Two Hands, ‘Jimmy,’ is played by Heath Ledger. Heath played Toby Ackland in, blackrock. Heath has acted in a number or well known films and series including, Roar, and his role as one of the main characters in the American coming of age film, Ten Things I Hate About You. David Field is another actor who played roles in both, blackrock, and Two Hands..

Simon Lyndon, has been in a number of films including, Dust Off The Wings, and, The Thin Red Line. Vidler also acted in the Thin Red Line. Rebecca Smart, Linda Cropper, Chris Haywood and Jessica Napier all have a large number of performances to their name. Jessica Napier’s last as the role of ‘Raffy,’ in the new Australian thriller, Cut. There is an overlapping in the list of other film and television roles of the actors in, blackrock. Such films and series as, Two Hands, The Thin Red Line and Day Of the Roses, have two or more actors from, Blackrock, in them.

Blackrock, has taken a gross of one point one million dollars. It was nominated in 1997 for five AFI awards including best film. Steven Vidler was also nominated for first prize at mystfest. Such information as this enables one to estimate the position of value of, blackrock, in relation to Australian cinema. Although, blackrock, did not do exceedingly well at the box office or gaining critique the film maybe seen as holding cultural value. Cultural value as opposed to commercial value is not based purely on economic gain. Tom O’Regan in, Australian National Cinema suggests,

‘Cultural Values are opposed to a solely commercial calculus, dialogue to exploitative unequal changes (imperialism) and a film culture to the economy of a film industries.’ (O’Regan, 1996:111)

Evans Williams as discussed earlier suggested that this film shows that, ‘We are at last in the real world.’ (Williams, The Australian & IMBD) The film contains cultural significance to Australia. An example of this would be the surf beach culture which is built so strongly into our society, a culture that does not hold ethnic bars. Rape, combined with this open culture, is an everyday occurrence in not only Australian but all societies is also approached in this film. For reasons such as this, the film does hold within it cultural value.

This film, if situated in relation to Australian national cinema as a medium sized English cinema, may be viewed as aiming to be a classic Hollywood drama with an Australian cultural edge. The film may be situated in the fourth stage of Lotman’s five stages of cultural transfer,

‘The fourth stage assimilates the matrices making them entirely its own.’ (O’Regan, 1996:220)

The film uses stylistic components of Classic Hollywood Cinema with roughness and content that is recognisably Australian. This film may be viewed as a ‘quality,’ film but lacked something, within the national cinema, to keep it in high competition with the Hollywood films. Maybe its content was a little too close to home for the Australian audience to handle.

Blackrock, directed by Steven Vidler, is an Australian drama with what now maybe seen as an, ‘all star cast.’ The film’s subject matter may be seen as a taboo subject within Australian culture as well as others. This may be why its uptake and critique has been almost non-existent. The film portrays the protagonists triumphs and pains exceedingly well leaving the audience disturbed and confused about the reasons for the events that they witnessed. All in all, blackrock, is a harsh portrayal of what exists in Australian society, without all the pleasantries and without giving answers.

 

Bibliography

Australian Film Commision, accessable on the World Wide Web

URL: http://www.afc.gov.au

(Accessed 27/4/00 to 3/5/2000)

Australian Film Institute, acessable on the World Wide Web

URL: http://.afi.gov.au

(Accessed 27/4/00 to 3/5/2000)

 

blackrock information, accessable on the IMDB website on the World Wide Web

URL http://us.imdb.com.Details?0118735

(Accessed 2/5/2000)

Enright N & Vidler S (1996) blackrock. Palm Beach Pictures in Association with PolyGram Filmed Entertainment.

Oz Film Site, ‘The Culture and Communication Reading Room,’accessable on the World Wide Web

URL http://kali.murdoch.edu.au/~cntinuum/

(Accessed 27/4/00 to 3/5/2000)

Williams,E (no date supplied) blackrock Review, accessable IMDB website on the World WIde Web.

URL: http://archive.entertainment.news.com.au/film/archive/70503a.htm

(Acessed 2/5/2000)

Films and TV Programmes Cited

blackrock (1997)

Cut (2000)

Day Of the Roses (1998)

Dust off the Wings (1998)

Halifax: Hard Corps (1994

Lorenz’os Oil (1992)

Roar (1997)

Ten Things I Hate ABout You

The Good Wife (1987)

The Thin Red Line (1998)

Two Hands (1999)