July 26, 2003

Full of High Sentence, But a Bit Obtuse


In keeping with her newfound fascination with Australian cinema, PCC rented the little-publicized, limited release Till Human Voices Wake Us. Directed by Michael Petroni, who also wrote the screenplay for 2002's The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, the film centers around a morose psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Franks (Guy Pearce) who grudgingly returns to his childhood home in Victoria, Australia to bury his father. Along the way, he meets a mysterious woman (Helena Bonham Carter), whom he saves from drowing after she falls off a railroad bridge. Sam learns that the woman has some form of amnesia, and as he tries to decipher her identity, he must confront his own form of self-imposed amnesia about his childhood. The scenes of the adult Sam and 'Ruby' (the name the mysterious woman thinks perhaps belongs to her) are intercut with those of a teenage Sam and his childhood love, Sylvy. As Sam gets closer to discovering the truth about his mysterious patient, the audience slowly learns what happened to Sam as a child.

Now, PCC immediately gives this film points for attempting to bring one of PCC's favorite poems, T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, to the screen. The title takes it name from the last line of the poem, "till human voices wake us, and we drown". That said, the film itself is rather predictable and is too wrapped up in not bastardizing Eliot's work that it neglects to portray fully rounded characters. Pearce's Sam is so cold and withdrawn that it's wonder that the audience has any sympathy for him at all. Bonham Carter- with whom PCC is strangely fascinated, and not only because she resembles the odd lovechild of a monkey and a ferret- has a rather two-dimensional part, without much room to develop her character into anything more than a mysterious amnesiac. The scenes between the young Sam (played with exquisite hesitation by Australian newcomer Lindley Joyner, who PCC hopes to see more of in the future) and Sylvy (Brette Harmon) feel much more real and alive than the interactions of Pearce and Bonham Carter. This is not to say that Guy and Helena did a poor job in the roles; rather, the film doesn't give them any room to grow and change. If this were a silent film, it would be amazing, since the cinematography is gorgeous, with several beautiful underwater scenes and brilliant uses of washed out greens, blues and browns to represent the Australian bush.

But although the narrative felt somewhat predictable and the characters weren't fully formed, PCC can't help but applaud a film the incorporates such a difficult poem into its story, even if the final results are a bit lacking.

Posted by jordan at July 26, 2003 5:30 PM