I found the film to be deeply disturbing. Not because of the drug stuff;Â the filmic representations of drug ab/use and associated culture is nothing really new, but the disturbing quality of the film came from the inability of the two main characters to negotiate the forces that pushed them out and pushed them together. They live on the wall of a ‘centrifuge ride’; the movie poster/soundtrack cover image is from a shot of them on the inside wall ofÂ Luna Park’s Rotor:
The two bodies flung together (the how/why is never explained or explored) are Dan (Heath Ledger) and Candy (Abbie Cornish). The director of the film, Neil Armfield, sold it to investors as a love story.
When Armfield spoke in a boardroom about Candy as a love story, “you could see the investors’ faces light up; it wasn’t the same story that they were expecting,” he says. “This is really a film about the responsibilities of love. I see the addiction as a kind of crisis through which we view different kinds of love.”
As a love story, it is definitely a love story without romance. The centripetal forces that throw them together are asymmetrical and these forces can not be sutured together to form a conventional romance narrative.
Bodies seem to end up beside each other merely because of the centrifugal fury that produces identity and social stuctures; an endless refinery that fuels everything. Forget social stratification on the basis of resemblance. For example, I am nothing like you, and, yet, here we are, you are reading this. However, every now and again, within a moment, a threshold will be crossed, and the differentiation becomes collective. Something is shared. Within the collectivity the force becomes centripetal, and the ‘us’ is the differentiated. Two forces: sometimes the ‘us’ is all there is to hang on to to weather the fury, sometimes the ‘us’ self-destructs as a ‘black hole’. Again, again. There is an agonistic struggle to maintain a balance between the two forces…
For Dan, his ways form a way of life, but for Candy Dan’s ways (“I did it his way”) form a way to escape from one life, only to become sediment in another, together. We get glimpses of the forces flinging them out, but nothing certain: Candy with her mother (the graffiti on the wall, her fists, something Oedipal?), but Dan is less clear (no family, weak, hopeless). As Candy’s father says to Dan in the carpark, no matter how terrible he (Dan) is, she (Candy) needs him. The relation can not be reduced to Oedipal fantasies either; he is not her father. No psychoanalytic narrative here.
For all of Dan’s weakness, he has a certain durability that allows him to survive living such a life. His durability is in part because of his abilities to draw on (exploit) the support of others. Candy, on the other hand, has a certain brittleness to her character: she explodes, she breaks. As such, they are complementary, but there is no symmetry, and no respite. Each can pull the other back in their own way.
Some reviews attempt to tie this into some sort of bohemian lifestyle (the poet, the artist). It has nothing to do with this. They are poets and artists because that is where they are flung by the centrifuge; they are as much symptoms as the drug use, but not necessarily so. Some manage to balance the forces, some live, or so it appearsÂ for some charactersÂ until they end up dead
It is not a happy ending, how could it be? Yet, the ending is satisfying; in that, through the intervention of a ‘break’ (‘nervous’, from each other) Candy is flung to another level of the centrifuge. There is a flash, when they meet again, of them returning to the same level. It is Dan in all his love and misery who must quite literally let her go; an ethical act.
It was cool and weird seeing the familiar sights/sites of Sydney. I am quite certain the final scene happens in one of K. and my favourite, very cheap Vietnamese restaurants (in Marrickville), and the table at which Dan sits is precisely where we sat the last time we went to the restaurant.
The film very much reminded me of the Iggy Pop song.