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Snowtown - No redemption?

3rd August 2011

Snowtown - No redemption here? A study in evil (2011, MA)
I have occasionally mentioned a film that I have not recommended for viewing. Snowtown fits into that category - it is certainly compelling, but I believe it is not for most people. It is a brutal and disturbing film, but then that is the story itself. It has already received substantial coverage, especially in South Australia, and this will continue over the next twelve months, as it is likely to receive many awards.
If you have not heard of Snowtown, I can only presume you were overseas for all of 1999. This event dominated news reporting for several months and this then continued during the trails of the perpetrators. Sadly the small country town in mid-North South Australia is now known more for its infamy as the place with ‘the bodies in the barrels', even though only one person was actually killed in the town itself.
This film, the first feature for director Justin Kurzel, is a dark, and worrisome story of manipulation and the development of evil. I will not mention the names of those who were involved in the killings - God knows who they are. They are more than dysfunctional, they live and breathe disorder, and the main leader is clearly a psychopath. This is a film that a survivor of any form of abuse would have a difficult time sitting through. The viewer is spared seeing all the murders, though your imagination can easily fill in the gaps in the escalating chaos. The people are simply vehicles for the depraved to enjoy.
In one sense there is no defined order to the film, but that is the nature of this story and the form of film-work - almost documentary style in its manner. The acting by the two main characters is so chillingly real that one could almost forget this is actually a film and that these were people considered by others to be simple working class ordinary Australians. In one scene, children are shown riding past on their bikes while a killing is being conducted inside the ordinary suburban house. Even ‘the church' makes an appearance, as the main family are shown at a local community church service. The singing and community focus of the church stand in vivid contrast to what really goes on in their life. When asked to share something - the mother simply stammers how much she loves her family and the boys.
Some critics have felt the film has no redeeming qualities, but then why should there be any? Watching a film like this is confirmation for me of the limited value of liberal theology today. It does not understand sin, and simply cannot deal with the depths of total depravity that humans can sink to. No amount of moral re-education can deal ultimately with evil - only the one true living Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter Bentley



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