Nate von Zumwalt
January 24, 2015
Sundance.org is dispatching its writers to daily screenings and events to capture the 10 days of festivities during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Check back each morning for roundups from the previous day’s events.
As a rule, tragedy tends to have its many ruthless ways. In Strangerland, Kim Farrant’s taut and cerebral directorial debut, that standard rings true as Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matthew Parker’s (Joseph Fiennes) two children vanish into the unforgiving Australian desert. Forced to grapple with the fallout and unable to evade lingering suspicions pointing to their own culpability, the couple’s already fragile relationship descends into a perilous spiral, pitting Matthew’s inward-facing coping tendencies against Catherine’s increasingly volatile behavior.
Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes.
©Sundance Institute | Ashley Lindsey
Farrant’s ambitious first effort, which premiered in World Dramatic Competition, succeeds most deeply in its ability to confront – with an almost psychoanalytical lens – the inexactness of our reactions to loss. Farrant cited the tragedy in her own life following the death of her father at a young age, and a subsequent interest in “the behaviors that I went into, and how I dealt with that, or didn’t deal with it.” She continued, “I’m kind of fascinated by how we act out when life’s punishing us. For me it was around connecting and the urge to make love or be sexual or something to feel anything other than the horrific pain.”
Speaking about her role, Kidman was more guarded in describing how she channels the seemingly endless layers of complexity that define a character like Catherine Parker. “It’s so personal, that to dissect it like this – it’s kind of the work, and I leave it,” she said. ““I only saw the movie for the first time tonight, so I’m a little bit in shock myself.” That sentiment suffused the Egyptian Theater Friday night, as Strangerland’s dedication to rawness – be it emotional, dramatic, or behavioral – left more than just Kidman speechless.
Ultimately, Farrant appeared to be the most comfortable audience member in the room, and she spoke with a tinge of mystery when fielding questions about the film’s ending. “We were committed to leaving you how the parents were left.”