Steven Ball
Marie Craven
Solrun Hoaas
Daryl Dellora

Melbourne independent filmmakers

Leo Berkeley
Giorgio Mangiamele
Michael Buckley
Moira Joseph

Mark Zenner


3 AM

Program notes published in 1991. Courtesy Melbourne Cinémathèque and Adrian Danks.

3 AM (1991 Australia 35 mins Super 8)

Filmmaker: Mark C. Zenner
Mus: Bruckner, Brahms
Cast: Simon Crosbie, Vikki Riley, Andrew Fitzroy, Kristine Schofield, Elias Levin, Mark C. Zenner, Darron Davies, Mark La Rosa

3 AM. The letters AM stand for ante-meridian. Ante means before or preceding the meridian point in a given time-zone. The figure three shows that the zone’s longitudinal centre is 0900 hours away from its axial alignment, or a distantial minimum, to the sun. And 1500 hours past the previous such alignment.

However, this is not the only meaning of AM. When the M is upside down – W – alongside the A, three gothic steeples are outlined – hence 3AM (a point not without significance for those familiar with the northern and eastern vantages on Melbourne’s skyline).

The third and least important significance of 3AM is its use as the title of my latest film in which, however, steeples do play a minor role; and the designated time, a major one.

Why this hour? It is unique in one respect: even in polar latitudes, the so-called "white nights" of summer do not affect it. Anywhere and in any season, 3AM is dark…

Is 3AM the film, dark? A good part of it is, with deep, alert shadows, tinted and tainted with the spectrality of what they shroud: people who cannot bear to see themselves (or be seen, same thing) in full daylight.

Does it have a "Soul"? Only to the extent that Ektachrome (on which the film was shot) has one.

Is it a narrative? Story? Characters? Affirmative. Is it deep – psychological? Sorry: no dirty linen, no Viennese tenements, no Greek classics.

In retrospect: the rationale for filmic devices; the excuse for "motivated" or non-arbitrary effects of cinema – invisible to the extent that they take effect.

I hope that at each viewing they are invisible.There is one outstanding character, and on him the film concentrated.

The best way to approach him is to recognise someone who lost the art of enjoying solitude, and remained only a dreamer whose energy and ideas scattered: a spoiled, soiled would-be artist who took fatal advice to get rid of a temptation by "yielding" to it – and then blamed the temptation (instead of the yielding, which would make more sense)…

3AM has recurrences, a formal patterning and hopefully cohesion that derived from no a priori idea, and was implanted a posteriori; it was built up during shooting, molded during editing; a mouldy film, therefore. (Colour is among the more obvious, because more contrived, patterns.) An audience will perceive some of it, but nothing of its a posteriori character.

What dictated the choice of lead actor? Nothing. On the contrary: it was the availability of the lead actor that dictated the role he was to play. The result, for those who know him, will look like type-casting; and to the audience, like a great performance.


The deceptively simple facts of the director’s birth clash with the evident cosmopolitanism of his background and immediate family ancestry. Born in Brisbane in 1959, Mark C. Zenner, contrary to widespread belief, actually spent the major portion of his youth in Melbourne, to which he nevertheless claims antipathy. He completed his schooling in North America. In New York, where he lived on-and-off for six years, he was exposed to a vast repertoire of international cinema spanning all periods, and acknowledges that films are the one great passion of his life. Unsurprisingly his forthright and sharply expressed opinions have earned him considerable hatred on the local scene. He describes Australian educational standards as "beneath contempt", "subliterates cloning themselves", and was recently heard to remark that "If there’s a special place in my heart for office workers and public servants; this place is called the ‘spitbowl’."

Annotations on Film, Melbourne Cinémathèque, 1991.

Mark Zenner, 1991

Back to Mark Zenner profile



Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis