REFLECTIONS IN THE DUST gets 7.5/10 Tears of a clown

Directed by Luke Sullivan

Starring Robin Royce Queree, Sarah Houbolt, Aldo Fedato


This is the type of Australian film we rarely see on the big screen. Brave, avant-garde and confronting, Reflections in the Dust is a film that challenges audiences. Curiouser still to see it in the form of nominal sci-fi film, but a great reminder of how the genre can often be used to challenge the status quo, and examine social issues. Here control and domestic abuse take centre stage, as a young girl seeks to be free from the unstable tyranny of her father, but with a world full of uncertainties and dangers, it is questionable as to what is the least hazardous course of action for her.

At the edge of a marsh, in a world that has undergone a social collapse, a young blind girl (Sarah Houbolt) seeks freedom from her father. Deep in the throws of untreated paranoid schizophrenia, the once circus clown (Robin Royce Queree) fluctuates rapidly between protector and tormentor to his daughter.

Reflections in the Dust is not a film to spoon feed audiences, with a jarring and fragmented narrative, often plunged into dream-like visions due to the deteriorating mental health of at least one major character, and peppered with interviews that may be the characters, or the actors (possibly fictionalised), or some amalgam between the two. It should be confusing, but these interview breaks from the disjointed narrative help to complement the tone of the piece, adding depth and emotion to the characters. They are quiet points, pauses in the sturm und drang that is life in the post apocalyptic wasteland camp, and a chance for the audience to catch their breath. For the tone of that post apocalyptic world is relentless, with a sense of dread and threat threaded through out every moment, and heightening as The Clown’s temper flares.

Robin Royce Queree puts himself through the ringer here, demonstrating a plethora of extreme emotions, as The Clown plunges through the highs and lows of his unchecked paranoid schizophrenia. His rage is ugly and terrifying, as he spits bile and growls animalistically, yet it is the mercurial nature of that change that is the most frightening. Sarah Houbolt as the blind Freckles elicits sympathy in her performance, while also managing to imbue the character with a life and strength, and a threat all of her own.

Reflections in the Dust might not be an easy watch due to both its ruthless tone, and challenging film making. It shifts the onus of interpretation back to the audience making us work for our cinematic sustenance, but it is absolutely rewarding cinema for that. A grimly beautiful film that provokes and challenges.