Review: the films of Cate Shortland

Cate Shortland is one of Australia’s finest filmmakers, and all three of her films feature young female protagonists forced to fend for themselves whilst dealing with unfortunate circumstances as they proceed on a psychological, sexual and moral journey towards adulthood.

Somersault (2004)

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Abbie Cornish in Somersault (2004)

After Heidi (Cornish) is kicked out of her home in Canberra, Australia, after being caught kissing her mother’s boyfriend, she ends up on her lonesome in Jindabyne during the snow season. Her dreamily naïve yet erotically sensual disposition is contrasted by the gruff, virile Joe (Sam Worthington) as they develop an unconventional relationship whilst struggling with their own psychological growth and sexual identities.

Somersault is an enchanting and very spacious film and the score by Decoder Ring flawlessly creates the cold, desolate, ethereal atmosphere of Jindabyne.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

 

Lore (2012)

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Saskia Rosendahl in Lore (2012)

Lore throws us back to 1945, where, shortly after the death of Adolf Hitler, a Nazi officer returns to his wealthy family home in Baden-Württenberg, Germany. Once reunited the family flee to a cabin in the Black Forest, the father deserts the family and it’s not long till the mother, knowing the American troops will come for her, voluntarily turns herself in to the American troops. As the eldest of the five, now abandoned, children, Lore and her siblings must somehow make it to her grandmother’s place in Husum in the north of Germany, an extraordinarily long trek.

Lore must not only deal with the chaos and disorder of a devastated war-torn country but also with the implications of her warped fascistic upbringing. A movie that is both sensual and haunting.

Rating: 6 out of 10 Stars

 

Berlin Syndrome (2017)

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Teresa Palmer in Berlin Syndrome (2017)

Teresa Palmer plays Clare in Berlin Syndrome, a naive 20-something from Australia, who travels to Berlin, presumably “to find herself”. She encounters the charming and perhaps overly friendly native Berliner, Andi (Max Riemelt) and they end up having sex in his apartment. The next day, she finds that she is unable to leave his apartment and it gradually sets in that he does not intend to ever let her leave. Palmer brilliantly shows us all the stages of Clare’s incarceration and deteriorating psychological health which inexorably crystallises into a Stockholm Syndrome, which the title of the film clearly alludes to. Max Riemelt flawlessly captures the multifarious sides of Andi from pitiful, weak to aggressive and barbaric to charming and manipulative.

One particularly notable scene involves an axe-wielding Andi driving Clare to a wintry forest where he presumably intends to end her life but is interrupted by two boys, one with an injured leg. Clare tries to communicate to one of them but unfortunately he cannot understand English. The mother arrives shortly thereafter and Andi stares Clare down to intimidate her into not calling for help. But, at this point, Clare’s will power is so  exhausted that she gives in and remains silent.

Rating: 7 out of 10 Stars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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