The Outer Barcoo
May 2, 2014
Hugo Weaving rests his elbow on his raised leg. He is leaning against the large old creaking pine tree by our farm’s front gate and staring at his extended foot. His onscreen wife says more with the look on her face than she could with any words she is not scripted to say. He barely looks up as she passes him a conciliatory mug of tea.
‘I have to move on, don’t I?’ he mutters. She squeezes his shoulder and nods slightly. Hugo’s words are crystal clear and come to me in surround-sound through the film company’s headsets. The ‘wife’ walks back across the grass as the director lines them up for another take.
I peel my headphones back and turn to the sound engineer and the guy I now know to be Craig Monahan, (the script-writer) beside me in the tent ten metres from Hugo and the tree. ‘What’s this about?’ I ask. ‘What is he moving on from?’
The soundman stops fiddling for a moment. ‘They’ve lost a child and after all these years he has come to terms with it. He has to move on with his life.’
I thought the film, ‘Healing’, was about prisoners and raptors. I hadn’t figured on a subplot. By the time I digest this, the ‘wife’ is approaching for another take. To my left is a visual monitor showing Academy Award winning cinematographer, Andrew Lesny’s close-up angle of the actors. Beautifully and artfully framed behind them in the shot is our cottage and the gnarly pear tree where I stood ten years prior slamming a shovel and a crowbar into the drought-baked earth as I reached the end of my own tether and came to a similar conclusion.
‘I have to move on, don’t I?’ says Hugo again. On cue and with perfect lump-in-throat silence, she hands him the cup of tea. Suppressing tears she conveys all the strength, sadness and universal emotion of a grieving mother and supportive wife. To my total surprise, my eyes swell with tears and I am riveted. Each time Hugo utters the words, I have the same reaction. A cup of tea and a knowing hand are her only consolation. Even though I know what’s coming, I cry for the whole six takes at the same point. ‘Are you OK?’ asks Craig with a slight turn of his head as Hugo follows through at the end of the scene by sombrely dismantling the swing set.
‘Um, yes. I am. It’s just that… well, I had exactly that moment of realisation about ten years ago, about ten feet further back. And then I gave away the trampoline, which was sitting where the swing set is. Only we didn’t even bother to dismantle it.’
Hugo’s is spot-on, as is expected, but the ‘unknown’ actress, new to the set that day and having only met Hugo half an hour before, astonishes everybody with her performance.
‘She’s brilliant!’ says the guy beside me. ‘Who is this girl?’
She is astonishing! I think. She is the ghost of me.
As they break to discuss proceedings, I am leaning on my knees chatting to the sound guys. In the monitors, I notice the actors and the producer in conference and looking at me. The scene impacts me as they do another few takes and later break for dinner.
It’s the ‘wife’. She jogs across the lawn as I head into the misty evening to the ‘big house’.
‘Wasn’t that an amazing coincidence and story!’ she says with a hand on my shoulder.
‘Yes. It was. You did a fantastic job.’