[FILM: Interview] Swerve
Beauty and Brutality
By Alasdair Duncan
A young man driving down a remote highway happens across a gruesome car wreck; he finds a dead guy, a frightened young woman, and a suitcase full of cash. This is the set-up for Swerve, a tense, noir-ish thriller set in an isolated outback town, and the first feature in close to a decade from Aussie filmmaker Craig Lahiff.
“I spent the last few years bringing up a couple of boys, and only recently arrived at the point where I was able to start thinking about making another film,” Lahiff tells me. “It is quite difficult to raise money for films these days, and also to find a local distributor who’s game to release a film theatrically. We don’t have many local distributors, and if you want to make a genre film, it’s even more difficult to find someone to release it.” He persevered nonetheless, believing in his story, and the result is one of the most intriguing locally-made films of the year.
“I wanted to do something which was fun for me to make, and fun for an audience,” says Lahiff. “Something that ran at a great pace like a runaway train and had lots of twists, had suspense and action and had a good plot.” Rather than just do a straight action film, though, Lahiff wanted to do something with the feel of a film noir. “I guess a lot of John Dahl’s films were influential on me,” he says. “Red Rock West and Kill Me Again. Then there are the Coen brothers’ films, especially Blood Simple. I like that mix of suspense and humour. Visually, Hitchcock is a big influence. I like to use a lot of wide-angled lenses, which is something that comes from Welles, who used a lot of those. I like this idea of figures in a landscape.”
Swerve plays up the contrast between the brutality of its characters and the beauty of its landscapes, with certain key scenes shot in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges. Getting the shots, Lahiff tells me, was a tricky business. “It was difficult getting everything right, because it’s such a big area,” he says. “We had to do a lot of pre-planning, choosing locations we could get to quickly. We had difficulties with the weather up there as well. On the last day of the shoot, we were doing the car chase sequence as a big dust storm rolled in; we had about half an hour left and we were really pushed to get the shot.” They finished just as the storm was rolling in. “You can see it in the background,” Lahiff laughs. “We finished just in time.”
Getting finance and distribution for a film in Australia is a tricky business, and it’s no surprise that this is Lahiff’s least favourite part of the process. “Sometimes, it’s dependant on who you cast,” he says. “If you can cast big names, it’s easier to get money. In this film, we had a wonderful cast – we had David Lyons and Emma Booth, and Jason Clarke, who is now doing some big things overseas. At the time they had all done work, but they weren’t stars on the level of, say, Russell Crowe. If you can get some names in your film, it’s easier to attract finance, but it’s more fun often to work with people who are on the way up. You’ve got more latitude in how you make the film, rather than somebody who might be more opinionated on how they think the film should be made.”
Posted: June 5th, 2012 under Arts, Arts - Interview, Arts Feature, Brag 465 (June 4), Film Reviews.
Tags: Alasdair Duncan, Arts, Arts Feature, Craig Lahiff, David Lyons, Emma Booth, Film, Film Review, interview, Swerve