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The Writer

a film by Trevor Rooney

At the end of last month's Open Screening, I asked a friend of mine: "What did you think of Trevor's film?" He responded with a question: "Is that his first film?" "Yes", I replied. A pause later, his rejoinder: "It's really good." And that pretty much sums The Writer up: it's good for a first film, but it's also good full stop.

Who is Trevor Rooney? He is a keen 19, and that usually means lotsa sound and image signifying nothing (the plethora of short film festivals/competitions in Australia currently is a sign of cultural decay), with the more ambitious budders enrolled as undergraduates of the Scorsese, Lynch, Tarantino, Woo, Boyle et al schools. Trevor doesn't like school (although he admits he attended some of the Lynch classes), and it is that independence that marks The Writer, the independence of a mind out of time.

Which is not to say that The Writer isn't flawed by the normal neophyte things, because it is: youth, in its desire to embrace life, tends to over-reach. There is a gap in this film, and in that gap one can see the film-maker - I don't think Trevor has fully assimilated yet the themes and style at play in this film. But, you know, he's done a not bad job of it.

Many of the film's components are standard, archetypal, even clichéd: the alienated, artistic "anti-hero"; the use of symbols (a scar, knives, a hammer, the letter 'X'); the circular narrative; the anti-style (in this case, the impressionistic use of expressionistic devices). What makes the film interesting is the way Trevor has composed these parts into the film's whole.

Most film-makers, when presenting such mosaics, provide a key to reading (and thus closing off) the text at hand. The Writer doesn't encourage particular readings. Like the work of Resnais, Tarkovsky, Lynch, it pursues open spaces, because it is only there that breath is possible. I don't think Trevor can yet offer the riches of the aforementioned film-makers, but there are good signs (the cut from the antenna to the trees is gorgeous, and the ending is as mystical as any of Antonioni's). And, on the other hand, the restraint he shows (from actually rushing to those riches) is very impressive (sometimes great film-making involves a rigorous holding back).

I look forward to subsequent films of his. And it would be nice to see more narrative material at the Super-8 Group screenings - is Trevor the group's only narrative film-maker? (Narrative and industry need not be partners, comrades.)



© Bill Mousoulis 1997.
This review first appeared in Super 8.