Jun 4, 2015
Kim Farrant’s debut film, Strangerland, has a cast many first-time directors could only dream of: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes and Hugo Weaving.
But it was a project with a long history. It took 13 years, Farrant says, “to get from inception to Sundance”, the renowned US film festival where it premiered in January. And there were times she wondered if whether would ever happen.
“It’s a brilliant script, but it’s difficult and confronting. It talks of things about the feminine that I think people find unnerving,” says Farrant, an actress-turned-filmmaker who made her name directing TV, documentaries and short dramas.
“It was a big deal to get it financed. I think people found the character of Catherine [Kidman’s role] very challenging to traditional beliefs about women and female sexuality.”
Strangerland is set in a fictional town in outback Australia where Catherine and Matthew Parker (Fiennes) and their two children have moved in search of a fresh start. But there are tensions between the couple, their wayward teenage daughter Lily (Maddison Brown) and young Tom (Nicholas Hamilton), who is burdened with the task of keeping watch over his sister.
One night, Lily and Tom go missing – it’s as if they have vanished into thin air. A dust storm rips through the town, leaving chaos in its wake.
The locals, including a police officer, David Rae (Weaving), do what they can to help search for the children. But the Parkers don’t seem able to help themselves.
Kidman gives a raw, risky performance as a woman whose response to loss and uncertainty is unpredictable, whose relationship with her teenage daughter is a disconcerting play of identification and distance.
Getting Kidman was “a bit of a crazy miracle”, says Farrant. “We had cast Hugo Weaving, and they share the same agents, in Australia and America. I was in a car at the time, just out of San Francisco, and I got a call from my producer saying that Nicole Kidman has read the script Hugo’s agent gave her the script, unbeknownst to us – and she wants to do your movie.
“So I met Nicole in Nashville. She was really struck by the vulnerability of the character, the sparsely written script that allowed for a lot of unknowns and shades of grey. She was attracted to that, and to the sexual odyssey of the character.”
Some aspects of Strangerland are clarified, some are not. It is a film about people struggling to come to terms with loss of control.
“The reality of life is that things are often left unresolved, there is no resolution,” Farrant says. “We wanted to leave people in that uncomfortable space where they think about the questions that are raised within the film, and look at where it takes them. When you are left with feelings of uncertainty, where do you go with that, what do you do?”
Strangerland screens at Sydney Film Festival on June 5-6 and will be released nationally on June 11.