A silently snarling dingo greets me as the front door opens in
suburban Wentworth, "The Town on Two Rivers" in the
darkest corner of New South Wales, near the Victorian border.
Iíd flown by light plane and driven by heavy car to get
there, so I was stuffed; so was the dingo.
Its owners were away somewhere exotic, and the house now
housed Julie Marlow, the producer of Hurrah, who completely
ignored the beast. I was shown a pair of gleaming new Wellington
boots which had been bought specially for me at a local
get-it-all, so I could walk about on the set, a half hour drive
into the nowhere.
The arid landscapes needed for the script had been turned into
mudflats after unseasonable rain that fell on the location - and
was still threatening.
The title of the film
refers to the crumbling shed
(The specially graded, long straight track to the shack which
is the central location for much of the film was waterlogged.
Clever camerawork from Nino Martinetti turned the puddles into
heat shimmer; necessity is the mother of invention.)
The title of the film refers to the crumbling shed, a
desolate, rusting hovel that some lark had christened Hurrah in a
fit of irony. The shack and its outhouse seem to have been there
for ever, thanks to a brilliant art department, which has aged
everything from discarded tyres to junky furniture. Even the dust
is old. This is where Raoul (played by Marton Csokas) has come to
seek refuge in isolation, drained and devastated by grief, after
his fianceeís horrific death - in a meat factory.
His dog is dying and heís disconsolate when one day a
stunning young woman turns up at the end of the track in a red
Jaguar and a dress to match, and tells him a shaky story about
her husband and a lover. Can she stay? Her name is Julia (played
by Tushka Bergen) and she can.
She has a secret
far more intriguing than her confessed past
Juliaís sensuality, coupled with a certain mystery, soon
has an effect on the doggedley downbeat Raoul, and as he begins
to fall in love, so does she - but she has a secret that is far
more intriguing than her confessed past, which she is forced to
reveal when local rednecks threaten their peace. And then one
day, she disappears even more suddenly than she appeared. Raoul,
however, has learnt to love again.
This intense two hander, with its share of erotic scenes and
so called magic realism, is described by director Frank Shields
as "the best script Iíve seen in 20 years." The
script is adapted from David Owenís book by writer John
Wolstenholme, who is also co-producer. The tall Englishman, who
has produced film and tv dramas like The Krays and The Inside
Man, has his own personal experience to draw on for this script,
after a girlfriend died suddenly. That was several years ago now,
and he has since married, but the trauma of the event served as a
reference point for Raoulís grief.
But any discussion about Juliaís secret - and the central
surprise the film delivers - strikes a difficulty. The difficulty
boils down to who and what she really is, an agent of healing.
But is she real or something Raoulís feverish brain conjures
up for his own salvation? Or, indeed, something else?
Standing knee deep in mud outside the shack specially built on
a desolate landscape, with wind and rain splattering us all, it
is a strangely apposite question.
"I donít do
nudity Ö" actress,
Inside, the two actors are shooting a scene in the kitchen
which has Raoul heating up a mixture of tinned corn, tinned onion
and tinned kidney casserole - with Tabasco sprinkled over it, to
kick the tastebuds in the guts. The smell wafts across the set
and sets off involuntary spasms of hunger in the crew.
Tushka Bergen, snatching conversations between takes, is
challenged by the love making scenes to come. "Itís my
biggest challenge," she says frankly. "I donít do
nudity Ö weíve talked about it and itíll be very
tastefully done, lots of shadows. Itís been my biggest
She says she loved the script and the character: "I just
loved the idea of playing someone who is totally there to do
good. Iíve never played someone like that, someone so
focused on someone elseís happiness."
"The grieving process
is the same for everyone." actor, Marton Csokas
For Csokas, the New Zealand-born actor making a name for
himself in the tv series Shortland Street as well as movies like
Broken English, Raoul is a real challenge. "In the beginning
Iíd catch glimpses of him but never the complete character.
So itís been an organic process. I had a couple of close
friends die when I was 18, and the grieving process is the same
for everyone. He is running, but he also wants to find solace -
he isolates himself but wants to be close to someone."
That ambivalence is a major element in Hurrah, enhanced by
"I love the fact that
the woman is the catalyst," director Frank Shields
Director Frank Shields says he hadnít read anything as
original "since The Crying game. I love the fact that the
woman is the catalyst, and how she gets into the male psyche. And
heís a tough kid from the suburbs, but instead of going into
the toilet to cry in private, heís gone into the bush.
Heís at once tough and sensitive."
The drafty shack is ready for another take, as Julia and Raoul
seize each other up after their first meeting, as Julia asks to
stay the night.
"Itís for The
English Patient audienceÖ" producer Julie Marlow
Producer Julie Marlow is excited by the way the film is coming
together. She feels it has a strong male character and explores
aspects of male emotions. . . it requires a huge outpouring of
grief. It also has these erotic scenes . . .so, dare I say it,
itís for The English Patient audienceÖ"
Indeed, someone jokingly referred to the film as The
Australian Patient. But as writer Wolstenholme says, the core
idea of "something greater than all of us out there,"
The Universal Patient, then?
Anticipated Australian release late 1998