Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Brooke Collins-Gearing, Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle

Review: The Beach, created and directed by Warwick Thornton

Watching Warwick Thornton’s The Beach is a journey into place and self. It made me want to breathe deeper and smell the salty air. It made me want to walk barefoot among the mangrove trees. And it made me want to eat.

Thornton cooks food from the place he dwells in, the shack on the beach at Jilirr, on the Dampier Peninsula in far north Western Australia, on the land of the Baard people. You want to touch, smell and taste – and feel gratitude for how Country can provide.

Dressed in a flash black jacket and cowboy hat, Thornton arrives in his old Toyota jeep. From the start, the energetic elements of Country are apparent. Fire, water, earth and air are his constant companions – along with his three chooks (the Ladies and Man) and the spices and seeds he tenderly chops, grinds and nurtures with his hands.

Thornton’s combination of saltwater sustenance with oils and spices makes meal preparation ceremonial. As he hunts, catches and prepares the food, he transforms it – from liquid to solid to gas to artwork on (at times) extremely fancy plates. He gives us a sense of what that Country might taste like, how it might nourish your spirit.

The colours, sounds and smells of this patch of beach are alive and moving.

Energy of Country

The Beach was filmed by Thornton’s son Dylan River. And it’s beautiful. Every shot is a living, breathing piece of artwork. Country itself – this little piece of liminal space between land and sea with a one-room wood and tin shack – is as much the protagonist as Thornton himself. And the chooks. And Hermit Crabs - who pay no attention to Thornton’s requests, but carry on with their own business.

Near and far, with intimate close ups, wide panoramic views and aerial shots, River captures the colours of the land, sea and sky: their movements; the patterns they create.

Thornton’s interactions with Country are soundtracked by the sounds of the beach and its tin shack. Tin, wood, wire, glass, steel and cloth all contribute to the dialogue. Thornton’s skill at using the sound of silence – nowhere more evident than in his breathtaking and heartbreaking film Samson and Delihah – creates layered dialogues swirling in conversation with Thornton, much like the swirling tides that, at times, turn the shack into an island.

Warwick Thornton’s The Beach is a delicate conversation with Country The Beach captures the dialogue between Thornton and his shack on the edge of the world. SBS/NITV

Sounds of Thornton chopping food, sharpening knives, whirling the handle of the cooker, sizzling in frypans and washing utensils are embedded in the sounds of water, wind and fire. These join with the musical notes of his guitar, sometimes played by him, sometimes played by the wind.

Read more: Warwick Thornton's Sweet Country: a tragic investigation of race on Australia's frontier

The kinetic energy created by Thornton’s use of tools and utensils feels like an extension of the potential energy manifesting from Country itself. It’s as if he taps into the energeticness of the place, harnessing this energy and then extending it from his own body back into place again as he holds his spear, his guitar or his pen.

Tracing patterns

Thornton’s presence and stories, River’s camera, and the beach each give glimpses into memory, time, scale and the aliveness of place.

The beach is ever shifting and changing with its tides and winds and the movement of Moon and Sun. The cloud formations are undeniable story tellers.

Amid the stories of and from Country that Thornton lives and River’s camera lens sees are the stories Thornton tells. Storytelling time with the Ladies and Man; the moments between him, his guitar and its musical notes; his long shadow stretched above him and his track of footprints behind him across the sand continually speak of the journey he is on.

With the stories come the patterns and the scars. Patterns in the sand and tides, patterns in the wood that abounds, patterns in the string of the fishing net, patterns he burns into his guitar.

Warwick Thornton’s The Beach is a delicate conversation with Country The Beach captures the colours of the land, the sea and the sky. SBS/NITV

Thornton seems very aware of the patterns that surround him. The patterns in his life and himself he recognises and owns. The scars he carved into his arm; the Fibonacci-like spiral fractal tracks he carves in the sand with his car.

As he strips away the outer layers of a coconut he strips away layers of himself to find his centre, to regain his balance.

With his last feed of oysters, provided by Country and cooked among the mangrove trees, you see the transformation Thornton experiences. By the time he’s ready to leave, you can feel Thornton’s calm: his energy has moved through the extreme heat, from the dream to reality, with the big full Moon rising.

Watching Thornton pack up and leave, I remember something he said in one of his stories: “You gonna follow, or are you gonna create your own path?”

These words stay with me long after I watch him drive away.

The Beach premieres on NITV, SBS and SBS On Demand on Friday May 29 at 7.30pm.

Authors: Brooke Collins-Gearing, Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle

Read more https://theconversation.com/review-warwick-thorntons-the-beach-is-a-delicate-conversation-with-country-139464

Writers Wanted

Yes, adult literacy should be improved. But governments can make their messages easier to read right now

arrow_forward

Yes, there's confusion about ATAGI's AstraZeneca advice. But it's in an extremely difficult position

arrow_forward

3 Best-Selling Air Compressor Brands

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning to you.   PRIME MINISTER: G’day, Ray.   HADLEY: Gee, you’ve had a week.   PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's been a lot of weeks like this. This time last...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: I'm going to go straight to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison is on the line right now. Prime Minister, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ray.   HADLEY: Just d...

Ray Hadley - avatar Ray Hadley

Defence and Veterans suicide Royal Commission

Today the Government has formally established a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide following approval by the Governor-General.   Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Royal Commi...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

9 Smart Hacks for Your First Day at Work

No matter how much work experience you have, the first day with a new company can be very stressful. Even the biggest professionals find the change of location and work collective a little frighte...

Chloe Taylor - avatar Chloe Taylor

Record year of growth for Tweed based business The Electrical Co

While many businesses struggled to stay afloat during the COVID-19 affected 2021 financial year, Tweed Heads based The Electrical Co. completed more than 50,000 smart meter installations across Aust...

a contributor - avatar a contributor

The Most Common Reasons why Employees End Up Leaving a Company

It is important for businesses to make sure they find the right people for their open positions. That is why a lot of companies are relying on professional outplacement services. A lot of companie...

NewsServices.com - avatar NewsServices.com