Dir: Kasimir Burgess. Australia. 2014. 93mins
A sombre revenge tragedy of some distinction, Fell is unlikely to play at your local multiplex. Unfolding a confronting tale of raw desperation at an unhurried pace to the music of a string quartet, it resists all opportunities to cater to movie-based expectations, instead inviting contemplation of redemption and renewal, of hope in the darkness.
The drama proceeds with minimal dialogue and constant tension with memorable images of the forest through changing seasons.
Accepting its limited appeal, producer John Maynard offered a 50-hour $A9.99 ($9.37) video-on-demand download period from the Sydney Film Festival – where the film had its world premiere - website as a way of getting this outstanding portrait of life and death in forest-covered inland Victoria to a wide local audience. International film festivals are bound to follow.
Director Kasimir Burgess’s debut feature follows some notable short films, the most recent of which, Lily, won the 2011 Crystal Bear for Best Short Film at Berlin. Now working closely with writer Natasha Pincus and cinematographer Marden Dean, he brings deeply felt affinity for the characters and locations depicted here.
The movie is about two men. Businessman Thomas (Matt Nable) takes his young daughter Lara camping in the idyllic/dangerous forest, amongst giant trees, thick undergrowth and flowing streams. Logger Luke (Daniel Henshall), driving felled timber along a narrow track, is responsible for Lara’s sudden and horribly realistic death.
Time passes, perhaps many years — Burgess and Pincus never make things easy for their audience – and Thomas, utterly bereft, self-harming and hungry for revenge, has changed his name to Chris and is passive-aggressively stalking Luke deep into the forest. The logger now has a daughter of his own, Madeleine, much the same age as was Lara.
The drama proceeds with minimal dialogue and constant tension with memorable images of the forest through changing seasons. Always to the fore are the great trees in all their ancient splendour, doomed, destined to be culled for mere planks or wood chips. Many mighty trees are felled in Fell, each an affront to the soul — to this viewer’s soul at least.
Luke Altmann’s score for guitar and string quartet is effectively touching and minimalist, powerfully underscoring the primal action.
Production company: Felix Media
International sales: The Yellow Affair, www.yellowaffair.com
Producer: John Maynard, Mary Minas
Executive producer: Bridget Ikin
Screenplay: Natasha Pincus
Cinematography: Marden Dean
Editor: Simon Price
Production designer: Zohie Castellano
Music: Luke Altmann
Main cast: Matt Nable, Daniel Henshall