STENDERS, KRIV – LUCKY COUNTRY
LUCKY COUNTRY DARKLY
The irony of its title gives Lucky Country a texture that begins with its
unexpected use of a dark Australian landscape that subverts the usual image of
this country, as director Kriv Stenders explains to Andrew L. Urban.
Unlike so many films that are set in the Australian outback, Lucky Country is
dark, the weather is ever ominous, the bush claustrophobic and closed. No great
blue skies and open land here. This is an Australia that is Victorian in its
period, its atmosphere and its characters – but not in its plot and its
resolution. “We chose that landscape especially,” says director Kriv Stenders.
It’s not so much a ‘sunburnt country’ as a cremated one ….
Written by migrant Englishman Andy Cox, the film explores Australia in a way
that is diametrically opposite to Baz Luhrmann’s exploration of the land and its
dramas. “Andy found that setting the story at the start of Federation enabled
him to see Australia through the prism of that period,” says Kriv, “wanting to
subvert the typical dry, open, sunny images.”
In 1902 the Australian Federation is a year old; 12 year-old Tom (Toby Wallace)
lives with his sister Sarah (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) and his recently widowed
father Nat (Aden Young), on an isolated farm at the edge of the woods. But Nat’s
dream of living off the land has died and he is losing his grip on sanity. When
three ex-soldiers arrive at their cabin one night Tom, like his father, believes
they are providence. But their presence becomes more menacing when one of them
reveals a secret: he's found gold. As the lure of gold infects everyone around
him the cabin becomes a psychological battleground in which Tom and Sarah’s
loyalty is put to the ultimate test.
"a boy who is forced to make a brutal choice"
Kriv was especially interested in the character of Tom, “a boy who is forced
to make a brutal choice … who to believe [between his father and strangers].
Being a parent I connected with that.”
He also liked the fact that encapsulated within a thriller was a Western; “I
like Trojan horse films that appear one thing one the outside and reveal
something else inside. You walk into this Western and quickly realise it’s a
The central role of Tom was critical for the film’s success, says Kriv. “We were
looking for a miracle, really. The challenge was to find a boy who was NOT so
21st century. Toby just had what we were looking for.” Indeed, Toby Wallace
makes a huge impact as Tom, both in physical characterisation and his emotional
range and depth of expression.
"I like working within parameters"
Kriv had always seen Aden Young in the role of Tom’s father, Nat; “I’ve been
a fan of Aden’s work for years and I just saw him in the role. I also learnt a
lot from him during the shoot,” he adds. It was a difficult and ambitious shoot,
too, with horses, stunts, children, fires – “and we had to stay focused on the
story. But I like working within parameters,” says Kriv, “and in this case they
were very clearly set … and unique.”
Published July 16, 2009
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(Photo: Andrew L. Urban)