"“It proves that if faith be put into inexperienced actors, sometimes such confidence can be wholly paid off…”"

One thing you can certainly compliment the Australian’s on when it comes to feature films, is their ability to show gritty realism in the darkest of ways. And, as Snowtown centres on infamous serial killer John Bunting, it’s fair to say that this wasn’t a film of charm and pleasantries.

Instead, Snowtown – made by debut director Justin Kurzel, is a graphic, affecting tale of friendship in the face of adversity, despite the said friendship consisting of an innocent adolescent and a sadistic murderer.

We follow the true story of Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway), who has been brought up in turmoil, subject to sexual abuse and rape from nearby neighbours and his older step-brother Troy (Anthony Groves). Jamie is desperate for a way out, someone to confide in and open his heart too. However, that person who comes along, is notorious serial killer Bunting (Daniel Henshall).

The film almost uses the merciless crimes as a side note, as the real narrative is that of the relationship between the characters, and how Jamie came to be wrapped up in such a sordid, dangerous world.

Played amid an unrelenting soundtrack, sounding almost like continuous heartbeats, Snowtown has a genuine earnestness to it, surely a result of the fact it’s a film made up of debuts.

Both Henshall and Pittaway are new to film – the latter having never considered acting before being approached when in a shopping centre – similarly to how much of the cast were picked for their roles. Yet the fearlessness of the newcomer was evident, giving the film a touch of authenticity, essential in a film depicting actual occurrences, certainly aided by the fact Kurzel was raised nearby to the setting of the production.

This also makes Henshall’s and Pittaway’s performances even more impressive, to learn that neither had appeared in a feature film before. It proves that if faith be put into inexperienced actors, sometimes such confidence can be wholly paid off.

The film had much potential to be a typically brutal drama that would simply come to nothing but meaningless gore, but the filmmakers were intelligent in their approach for this film, being sure to distance themselves from such a production.

Where the film could have been gory and gruesome, it instead opted for contemplativeness and subtlety. Many scenes where Bunting committed his horrific crimes, were simply spoken of, or depicted via close-ups of Jamie’s face, as he watched on, dismayed.  A bold move by the makers, as what we don’t see if always far more affecting than what we do.

The film is suffocated in bleakness however, and at times I felt that perhaps it was a little unnecessary. I appreciate the depiction of the depressing lives of those living in Snowtown during such a period of time, but it appeared in the film that almost everyone was either abused, an abuser, a paedophile, murderer, or heroin addict. There were few encouraging moments, and I just feel that by law of averages surely some of the local inhabitants must have been nice and normal, and a depiction of such characters would have been constructive, even had it not been related to the script in any way.

I also feel that despite the austerity and desolation of the feature, it failed to have much of an emotive side to it. So many characters were nasty, or murderers of some kind, and it was difficult to emphasise with many of them, including Jamie, who, although a more tragic case, still makes the wrong decisions, which can be highly infuriating at times. Although that isn’t really a fault of the filmmakers, but more a reflection of the story that is being told.

However, for a debut feature for the director and lead roles, it shows much promise for various newcomers, who could well all be looking back at Snowtown in years to come, as the first of many successful, triumphant feature films.