Australian singer/songwriter Nick Cave is best known for his violent lyrics and legions of black-clad fans, but his latest incarnation is as screenwriter of a gritty Australian western.
When Cave sat down to write “The Proposition,” he never actually thought it would get made. He wrote the script in three weeks with nothing more to go on than the basic scenario of the film.
“I was determined not to spend inordinate amounts of time on something I felt would fundamentally never get made,” the artist says. “I just sat down and banged it out in the spirit of those old Hollywood guys,” said Cave, who studied art before turning to music in the 1980s and becoming the archetypal goth singer with his bands the Birthday Party and later the Bad Seeds.
The film ultimately did get made after director John Hillcoat was able to piece together financing for the project. “The Proposition” stars Guy Pearce as outlaw Charlie Burns, who is captured with his 14-year-old brother Mikey. He is told by the local police captain the only way to save Mikey from the gallows is to track down and kill their older brother Arthur, a psychotic renegade wanted for rape and murder. The movie screened this week at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and opens in U.S. theaters in May.
Cave says a film about the colonizing of Australia would inevitably be a brutal story and the violence in the film while graphic — a man’s head is blown away in one scene — was used judiciously rather than piled up repeatedly.
“When the violence comes it’s very direct, short, sharp. It’s not ritualistic or done in slow motion or balletic or all those things that most violence is that you see these days,” he says. “What makes the violence more shocking is that it’s up against a lot of tenderness and quietness and stillness and melancholy and there are these sudden outbursts of it. The film doesn’t numb you with its violence.”
Cave has already written another film, which he describes as an English seaside drama set in the southern town of Brighton, where he lives. “It’s pretty grim,” he said. “But there’s no violence in it. It’s a sort of British sex romp, without much sex in it. And not a hell of a lot of romping either.”
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