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With the new Australian film, Fell, screening as part of Lotterywest Festival Films next week, X-Press chats with its talented director, short-film maker, documentarian and Crystal Bear winner (2011 Berlinale) Kasimir Burgess.

Kasimir Burgess’ first full length feature is a tale of revenge and redemption set against a lush green backdrop of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges. Fell shows something that is rarely seen in Australian cinema. Instead of the arid desert which we so often define ourselves by, its setting is a rich forest. “The forest represents regeneration, the chaos, the life, the death, and the cycle. It is a really beautiful dramatic stage, that contains within it the idea of a redemptive death. A rich thematic setting, especially with the logging – it just externalises the internal violence and trauma the men carry.”

The result is a film that is sparse in dialogue, instead letting its inherent visual poetry carry the story. “I was just trying to find metaphors in the landscape. Images that can speak without having to lean to heavily upon the words, which can be a bit overt or clumsy compared to an atmosphere or a feeling that an image can evoke. I’m not holding the audience’s hand the whole time, but I think if you are a relatively intelligent and observant human being you are going to be able to follow all the cues and feel that you are in safe hands in term of plot and meaning. When you are using archetypes it opens it up for people from different cultures and background to find their own key into something.”

Essentially a two hander, Fell is reliant for its drama in the struggle of its primary characters, Thomas (Matt Nable) and Luke (Daniel Henshall), as they deal with the death of a young child. “In a lot of ways they are different, but in some ways they are two sides of the same grief coin. Luke is more Dionysian, more electric and volatile, where Thomas is locked behind those eyes. [Screenwriter] Natasha Pincus and I really enjoyed creating those characters. After a few conversations, the actors hit it. They have both lived and loved and lost, and they kind of had that depth, so they were a natural choice. “

Despite its beauty, the environment did offer a lot of challenges for the crew to film in. “It is a lot of cold, mud, sleet, rain, heavy hills, and really high trees. I needed to overcome my fear of heights and wear ten jumpers. It was exhilarating being in such a dramatic landscape, constantly challenged by the elements. You earn every moment.”

Burgess isn’t kidding about that fear of heights, with a number of the scenes required both actors and crew to be harnessed up a tree. “I was directing scenes up a 100 metre tree, literally above the clouds, as the tree is on a mountain. Daniel and I were clinging to each other between takes, wishing we were back in the womb.”

The result is a breathtakingly beautiful piece of Australian cinema.


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