INTERVIEW WITH KIM FARRANT, DIRECTOR OF STRANGERLAND
KIM FARRANT was available for a short conversation about her film, STRANGERLAND...
The film has a number of very visually striking locations, where was it shot?
Canowindra was the little town we used, while Broken Hill was the outskirts of the town, then the Mundi Mundi Plains where we shot a lot of the desert exteriors...
You really get a sense of isolation, especially from the Broken Hill locations...it's very much a "one horse" kind of town.
It seems to be a barely functioning kind of place, there's hardly anything there, so at the beginning of the film you're already wondering why this family has suddenly moved there...
Yes, so as the story unfolds you start to realise that they have...kind of run away from something, so you're thinking why they've left, why they've left in a hurry, and as it starts to unravel you become aware of this secret that they've been trying to hide, with their daughter and her history in the previous town...so yeah its really their way of escaping their past.
The most striking scene in the film is the dust storm itself, which happens just as the children go missing. How difficult was that scene to achieve?
That was probably one of the most fun shoot-days I've ever had in my life! It was like we were all kids in a playground, playing with dust and mud! It was difficult, because the actors - we all had eye masks on, masks over our mouths to protect us from the dust and the smoke from these massive smoke machines and huge wind turbines blowing everything everywhere - it was very difficult for Nicole and Joe because, you know, they had to keep performing while still dealing with all of this...dust getting in their eyes and their mouths...so it was difficult in that way. But I had an incredible special effects team and my DoP Peter Dillon was masterful at lighting it in such a way to make it so eerie and strange. So yeah, it was great. Great fun to shoot.
Your DoP, Petter Gillon, really does capture the beauty of the countryside and landscapes in the film.
Yeah he's pretty amazing. He shot Vikings and some Game of Thrones, some other big series as well as films. What was really lovely for me working with him, other than him being an extraordinary, gentle giant, was that he hasa Stranger's eye, he'd never been to Australia before, never been in the desert. The way he saw the light...he saw things in a way that we Australians probably don't appreciate. For instance, the Gaffer, who'd been working in the industry for over 25 years, told me he'd never seen a DoP light a scene in the way that Peter did, or frame our landscapes in the way that he did.
So for me that was very telling, and it helped to further create Catherine's sense of isolation and alienation - not only from the townsfolk but also the land. I mean here she is, a white person in this strange, unforgiving landscape, and it helped to keep her feeling unsafe, unsettle...so Peter did a great representation of the landscape, as the ultimate, swirling unpredictable feminine...you know we call it Mother Earth, and I don't think that's a coincidence. There's something about that land, the dust storms and the vastness of those skies, where it can feel like this very primal force - not too dissimilar to unbridles female sexuality. So we were making parallels between the young daughter, the mother and the wilds of the lands out there.
So let's talk about the topic of female sexuality in the film. I feel its an aspect that has generally been misinterpreted. In researching for this interview I did read through some of the message boards on IMDB - which i instantly regretted! For example, the sex scene between Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes, which is this urgent, primal release between the pair
Yes, it was very much an attempt to get away from the pain they are both feeling but also to try and control their emotional state - especially Catherine - her absolute agony of the unknown, her anxiety her grief, everything she's experiencing, trying to get to grips with losing her children...and fucking her husband in that moment is her way of trying to regain control. But then as soon as its over, once they have that release, the pain all just comes rushing back. She's still unsatisfied, she can't replace her daughter with that feeling. So yeah its abouta woman's sexual odyssey, and how we use different things in lift to help us cope with extreme pain, Catherine tries to use sex, while Matthew resorts to alcoholism.
Following on from that, there's a scene where Catherine goes into Lilly's bedroom, tries on her clothes, she's already read through her journal...I saw that scen as her way of trying to connect, empathise with her daughter even though she's missing. There's the accusation (from Matthew) that because Catherine was promiscuous in her youth, its as though her genes have been passed on...
I don't think it's so much her genes as her behaviour. Its not like she had a particularly wayward and promiscuous "gene", its more like the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, you know? The daughter has been emulating the mother's sexual energy. The mother's been repressed (by her husband), and now they daughter's gone missing all that dormant sexual energy needs to come out somewhere, and Catherine by emulating her daughter brings out that sexual energy in herself but to also to try and connect with her daughter by dancing, wearing her daughter's clothes, trying to feel like here.
Now, Lilly herself - she's been in an illicit relationship. She's got this very sexually repressed father who's telling her that what she's done is bad, shameful. However her own personal sexual experiences tell her that he's wrong - she enjoyed sex and wants to keep enjoying it, and all her father has really done is put her in a situation where he can't observe and oversee her behaviour all the time...
Yeah, and Lilly is at that tenuous age, between child and woman, and we are fascinated with exploring that age. Lilly's got this power, because she's becoming sexual, oozing this sexuality, which for many men, that burgeoning, virginal sexuality is their biggest turn-on! But, at the same time, she's completely out of her depth. So its a very narrow, precarious place that she is navigating and eventually, hasn't navigated it quite so well.
Our thanks to Kim for sparing us the time and to Emma at FETCH.FM for facilitating the interview.
STRANGERLAND is available now on DVD and Download/Streaming sites. You can read our review of the film HERE