David Michôd’s The Rover ★★★★
‘Australia. Ten years after the collapse.’
BROODY, MYSTERIOUS, DETACHED AND TORTURED, Guy Pearce steals the show, battling nature, humanity…and even a dwarf in David Michôd’s successful post-apocalyptic film, The Rover.
Australia is transformed into a resource rich third world country that illustrates the very real problem of the widening inequality gap prevalent in our society today. In this way, Michôd’s terrifyingly accessible film creates a blurred line between fiction and documentary – a docu-fictionary film, visualising the outcome of contemporary society’s inaction to some of our biggest problems: global warming, inequality and the slow breakdown of social order. Opening the film with “Australia. Ten years after the collapse”, Michôd presents a world fallen apart (although it is unspecified as to whether this is a global collapse, or just the collapse of one nation). Regardless, The Rover maintains a melancholic tone throughout all aspects of the film, from the plot to the characters to the drained landscape.
After an unseen violent altercation between a group of so-called criminals, branded villains for the rest of the film, and the so-called local authorities (also branded villains in the film), Robert Pattinson’s character, Reynolds, is abandoned by his brother and the other criminals with a bullet in his gut. Destruction continues in the opening sequence in a nonchalant kind of way, normalising violence and disorder in this wasteland; Guy Pearce is slumped over a bar by a window as the bandits’ car crashes across the view. Undisturbed to the outside wreckage, Pearce’s clear withdrawal from humanity creates an ironically funny scene, but one that causes concern when you realise what you are laughing at…a world that lacks the ability to actually care. Pearce hears a smash, drags his weathered and tormented body outside and witnesses his car being stolen. So begins the film, and the depressingly simple yet excellently executed plot of a man trying to reclaim his car in a post-apocalyptic society. The story is the gradually unfolding relationship between Erik and Reynolds to the point where you can almost categorise it as friendship – the simplicity of the plot is poignantly countered by the complexity of this relationship.
Michôd’s film owes much of its success to the acting masterclass provided by both Pearce and Pattinson. The vulnerability of Pattinson compared to the violent cynicism of Pearce expertly compliment one another, creating a dichotomous relationship similar to that of Lenny and George from Of Mice and Men. Pattinson is a product of the “collapse” who has been protected all of his life, hence his moving innocent portrayal. In contrast, Pearce pines for a lost world, where he reveals to a member of the authority that the breakdown of social order caused the breakdown humanity – a beautiful take on the root cause of Michôd’s physically and economically degraded country. Pearce’s character carries a weight of sin around with him: his neck hangs, his shoulders hunched and his body holds decades worth of tension – Pearce creates a character who is the definition weathered as he begrudgingly lives in an uninhabitable world.
The lack of dialogue, the 10 minute long takes and the ominous droning drag of the soundtrack vividly convey the oppressive heat of the landscape. Humanity is drying out, desperate under the intense sun. Michôd creates highly suspenseful scenes whilst maintaining a realistic sense of lethargy emphasising the sweltering heat. The lack of dialogue adds to the mysticism and monstrosity of Pearce’s character who has become accustomed to the heat and violence of the country. He is reduced to an animalistic state, constantly empathising with dogs over humans, as he wanders the desert heading towards nowhere.
Michôd’s film is a successful vision of an attainable yet undesirable future. Although some of the scenes do drag on, the acting commands the undivided attention of the audience. Both Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson steal the show with their brilliant, gritty, Blakean performances in which innocence is corrupted or guided by experience in order to begrudgingly survive in a decaying country. Whether it is corruption or guidance is left to the audience.
neighbourhood noise are extremely excited for Michôd’s next feature – it has a lot to live up to.