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Noise

Year: 2007
Production Co: Retro Active Films
Director: Matthew Saville
Writer: Matthew Saville
Cast: Brendan Cowell, Henry Nixon, Katie Wall
Mention the words 'Australian movie' and many people will think of Crocodile Dundee - the expression of an Australian archetype that doesn't really exist nowadays (if it ever did) but which was ingeniously packaged for American audiences. No doubt they flocked here disappointed to see we didn't all wear croc-skin waistcoats, carry enormous hunting knives and use words like 'ripper' and 'bonzer' in everyday conversation.

But being Australian ourselves, it should be easy to depict the way Australians really are in a film for local audiences, surely? Evidently not. It's not until you see TV director Matthew Saville's Noise that you realise how few Australian films capture us as we are; the way we talk, the names we have, the jobs we work at, the way we relate.

Noise is a rather Lynchian tale of colliding lives. There's police officer Graham (Cowell) suffering tinnitus - a constant ringing in the ears. Young Maia (Lavinia Smart) is the sole survivor of a late night train massacre. Lavinia's frightened for her life as the police stumble. Graham is sent to monitor a small town where more murders have rocked the local community.

Part of the way through you might assume you're watching a murder mystery or a thriller. Failing that, you might be waiting for Graham's condition to come to the fore and give the flawed hero his Achilles heel.

But thriller elements never come to the fore, nor does an easily marketable figure in Graham, and many will come out of the film trying to work out what Saville wanted to say.

The lack of a cinematic definition might give Noise trouble finding an audience who want to know what it's about before they see it. Saville himself reports how much trouble he had cutting the trailer so as to not make it look like something it wasn't. Putting your finger on what Noise is is much harder.

It's not a murder mystery or a thriller despite some action and thriller elements. It's not even a archetypal tale of lives crossing like last year's Last Train to Freo.

It's an unapologetically artistic film; beautiful to look at and experience, and the sound design captures Graham's condition perfectly, putting us right in his shoes.

And Saville indeed gets his characters and their particular Australian-ness pitch perfect. Just as you have no real idea what people are thinking, you won't understand the motivations of most of the characters most of the time, left to - as Saville says he wants it - ask more questions than you can answer.

See Noise for the confident command of the cinematic language more than the story. If you want a three act plot that wraps up a narrative, you'll be disappointed.

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