Blackrock (film)

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For the 2012 American film, see Black Rock (2012 film).
Blackrock
Blackrock poster.jpg
Directed by Steven Vidler
Produced by David Elfick
Nick Enright
Catherine Knapman
Written by Nick Enright
Starring Laurence Breuls
Simon Lyndon
Linda Cropper
Music by Steve Kilbey
Cinematography Martin McGrath
Release dates 1 May 1997
Running time 90 mins[1]
102 mins[2]
Country Australia
Language English
Box office A$1,136,983[3]

Blackrock is a 1997 Australian film directed by Steven Vidler and written by Nick Enright. The film was adapted from the play of the same name, which was inspired by the real-life murder of schoolgirl Leigh Leigh. The film stars Laurence Breuls, Simon Lyndon, Linda Cropper and also features the film prominent role of Heath Ledger. The plot centres around the character Jared (Breuls), who witnesses his friends raping a girl who is found murdered the next day. The film won the 1997 Major AWGIE Award. It was generally well received critically in Australia, though it did attract controversy for its fictionalisation of a rape and murder without the consent of the victim's family. Internationally, where audiences were unfamiliar with the Leigh Leigh murder, it was less well received.

Plot[edit]

Blackrock is set in an eponymous fictional Australian beachside working-class suburb (not to be confused with the Melbourne suburb of Black Rock), where surfing is popular among youths like Jared (Laurence Breuls). He has his first serious girlfriend, Rachel (Jessica Napier), who comes from a much wealthier part of the city. One day Ricko (Simon Lyndon), a local surfing legend, returns from an eleven-month odyssey and Jared gives him a 'welcome home' party at the local surf club. The party is unsupervised and has alcohol freely available. Jared climbs a big rock and sees Toby (Heath Ledger) having consensual sex with Tracy (Bojana Novakovic). He later witnesses three males raping Tracy, yet he does nothing. The rapists leave her crying – but alive, on the beach and Jared too flees the scene and heads home. Later that night Rachel, arriving at the party late and looking for Jared, finds Tracy beaten to death on the beach.

The incident – and the community – are soon being scrutinised by news bulletins across the nation. The locals react differently: The surfers continue their lives as if nothing has happened; Tracy's grieving best friend Cherie (Rebecca Smart) resorts to violent behaviour; Rachel has to face the news that her brother is one of the accused. Jared is torn between the need to reveal what he saw for the sake of justice, and the desire to protect Toby and the other rapists in the name of 'mateship'. His silence eventually leads to the breakdown of his relationships, not only with Rachel, but also with his mother Diane (Linda Cropper), who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Eventually Ricko confesses to Jared that he killed Tracy, but claims it was an accident – that she hit her head on a rock when he attempted to have sex with her. He asks Jared to back up his story to the police that they were together when the murder happened, despite the fact that Jared has already told the police he was alone at the time. When he goes back to talk to the police, they show him the photos of Tracy's battered body, and he realises her injuries were not accidental. Jared finds Ricko at the beach and confronts him, and Ricko finally admits the truth. He found Tracy on the beach after the rape and she sought comfort from him and asked him to take her home. He agreed, but wanted to have sex with her first. She tried to fight him off and bit him in the process, which enraged him enough to beat her to death.

As Ricko finishes his confession the police arrive and he realises that Jared has turned him in. He attempts to escape but the police give chase and corner him on a cliff. Rather than go to jail – and ignoring Jared's screams of protest, he jumps to his death. In the weeks that follow, Jared's life collapses – he leaves home (despite finally finding out about his mother's illness and her recent mastectomy), buys Ricko's panel van and takes up residence in a stack of concrete pipes on a vacant block. He eventually confesses his role in the events to his mother, and the film ends with him joining Diane and Cherie in cleaning graffiti from Tracy's grave.

Cast[edit]

Themes[edit]

Writing in the journal Antipodes, Jane O'Sullivan and Felicity Holland credited the film with exploring the themes of Australian masculinity, mateship, violence and sexuality. The focus on masculinity was said to leave the female victim largely out of the film. The "near erasure" of Tracy was considered to be a troubling aspect of the film, which instead focused on portraying the males as victims of their class, masculinity and mateship. The film's portrayal of the rape and murder at a teenage party was said to suggest that serious crime can arise from drinking and fun simply getting out of hand. The violence was said to erupt from extreme larikkinism, rather that the archetypal psychopathy seen in other films featuring violence towards women. The film's critique of criminal masculinity, however, was said to undermine the status of previously celebrated masculine lawbreakers in Australian history and cinema, such as Ned Kelly and Mick Dundee.[4]

Production[edit]

Newcastle's Freewheels Theatre commissioned Nick Enright to produce a play that explored themes around the rape and murder of schoolgirl Leigh Leigh in Stockton near Newcastle, Australia on 3 November 1989.[5][6] Titled A Property of the Clan, it premiered at the Freewheels Theatre in 1992, and was performed at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1993.[7] The play was shown at various high-schools in the Newcastle area, and following its positive reception, was shown nationally at high schools across the country over a period of eighteen months.[8]

The Stockton Ferry, one of several locations in Stockton used for filming[9]

The Sydney Theatre Company commissioned Enright to develop the 45-minute play into a full-length production.[10] The resulting play was titled Blackrock. Blackrock retained the original four characters from A Property of the Clan,[8] though also added nine others, and was considered a more fictionalised version of Leigh's murder.[10] The narrative and emphasis were reshaped for an adult audience outside of a specifically educational environment.[11]

While the revisions to the play Blackrock were still being finalised, Enright started working with director Steven Vidler to produce a film version, which would also be titled Blackrock.[10] Blackrock was partially filmed in Stockton. The community of Stockton opposed filming in the area, stating the memories of Leigh's murder were still fresh and the details of the script were "too close for comfort".[10] When filmmakers arrived in Stockton, locations that had previously been reserved were suddenly no longer available, and the local media treated them with hostility.[10] Complaints about the film were exacerbated by the filmmakers' denial that the film was specifically about Leigh, despite the choice of Stockton for filming.[7]

Reception[edit]

Blackrock grossed $1,136,983 at the box office in Australia.[3]

The film received a limited release in Australia at independent cinemas and drive-in theatres, where it was well received. It was less enthusiastically received overseas where people were unfamiliar with the Leigh Leigh murder. It debuted to unfavourable reception at the Sundance Film Festival.[10] David Rooney from Variety said the film "should score with kids the protagonists' age, but its soap-opera-style plotting and overwritten dialogue will limit wider acceptance". Rooney did, however, praise several of the actors performances.[12] Associate professor Donna Lee Brien of Central Queensland University stated that when shown outside Australia, the film lacked the "poignant and powerful narrative support of Leigh's tragedy", and was deemed by critics to be "shallow and clichéd".[10]

Leigh's family were vehemently opposed to the film, saying the filmmakers were "feasting on an unfortunate situation" and portraying Leigh negatively.[10] In the film, Tracy wears a short skirt, tight-fitting top and high-heels to the party; in reality, Leigh wore ordinary shorts, a jumper and sand-shoes.[10] Writer Robert Drewe stated the film was "asking a lot of Australian audiences to expunge reality from their memories".[13]

Accolades[edit]

Blackrock received five nominations at the 1997 AACTA Awards, though did not win any awards.[14] It won both the 'Feature Film - Adaptation' award and the Major Award at the 1997 AWGIE Awards.[15]

Year Event Award Nominee Result
1997 AACTA Awards Best Achievement in Cinematography Martin McGrath Nominated
Best Film David Elfick Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Simon Lyndon Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Rebecca Smart Nominated
Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Source Nick Enright Nominated
AWGIE Awards Feature Film – Adaptation Nick Enright Won
Major AWGIE Award Nick Enright Won

Home media[edit]

A region 1 DVD was released on 29 October 2002, containing a 102 minute version of the film.[2] A region 4 DVD was released on 19 November 2003, containing a 90 minute version of the film. Special features included a four-minute featurette, cast and crew interviews, outtakes and the film's original trailer.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Blackrock DVD". Urban Cinefile. 18 December 2003. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Blackrock DVD". CD Universe. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Film Victoria – Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
  4. ^ O'Sullivan, Jane; Holland, Felicity (December 1999). "'Lethal larrikins': cinematic subversions of mythical masculinities in Blackrock and The Boys". Antipodes 13 (2). ISSN 0893-5580. 
  5. ^ Morrow, Jonathon; San Roque, Mehera (1996). "In Her Death She Remains as the Limit of the System". Sydney Law Review 18 (4): 477. 
  6. ^ Baillie, Rebecca (31 March 2003). "Tribute to Enright". The 7.30 Report. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Coyle, Rebecca (2005). Reel tracks: Australian feature film music and cultural identities. John Libbey Publishing. pp. 23, 24. ISBN 978-0-86196-658-5. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Enright, Nick (1996). Blackrock. Sydney: Currency Press. p. i. ISBN 978-0868194776. 
  9. ^ Carrington, Kerry (24 July 1998). Who Killed Leigh Leigh? A story of shame and mateship in an Australian town. Sydney, New South Wales: Random House Australia. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-09-183708-2. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Brien, Donna Lee (October 2009). "Based on a True Story': The problem of the perception of biographical truth in narratives based on real lives". Text 13 (2). Central Queensland University. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  11. ^ McCallum, John (26 July 2005). "Between community and the mainstream stage". The Australian. p. 14. 
  12. ^ Rooney, David (9 February 1998). "Blackrock". Variety. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  13. ^ Drewe, Robert (1 May 1997). "Flipside of the Anzac coin". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 16. 
  14. ^ "1997 Winners & Nominees". AACTA Awards. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "Australian Writers' Guild Awards". Australian Television Information Archive. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 

External links[edit]