Judy and Punch

Judyandpunch2019posterWritten and directed by Mirrah Foukes

Cast includes Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman

A devastating movie. Beautiful. Breathtaking cinematography. Violent. Cruel. Tense. Extraordinary. If this doesn’t win every award at the next Australian film awards there is something wrong.

Gothic, dark and menacing with a twisted fairytale quality. As well as a bit of Mad Max-type post-apocalyptic chaos and carnage.  Set in a brutal village in a brutal period of history, there’s candlelit rooms, dark laneways of cobblestones, crowds baying for blood and much nocturnal scuttling around in hooded capes. This is a dog eat dog world (or perhaps a dog eat sausage world?) where brutality reigns supreme. Stonings are entertainment. And viciously beating your wife until she’s scarcely alive is… well, ‘that’s how you do it’.  Resonating themes of violence, vengeance and choosing good  are so powerful it’s impossible to see this film without reflecting on the world today. How do we stand up to injustice? How can the unempowered gain strength? A fascinating study of forgiveness and lack of forgiveness.

The famous Punch & Judy puppetry creates a wonderful world of clever recurring imagery – the constable with his baton, Mr Frankly and his truncheon bearing hoons who are skilled at extracting confessions, the rabbits (both dead and worm-infected and cute and alive), the crocodile scene – fabulous!

Brilliant cast. Agonisingly sad when Scaramouche (Terry Norris) remains kindly and polite to the end and his poor wife Maude (Brenda Palmer) simply suffers quietly beyond all imagining. The ensemble of Forest people including the beguiling doctor (Gillian Jones) show by their resourcefulness and courage that they may be outcasts but they will remain together, co-operative, cheerful and courageous. And non-violent aside from skinning those rabbits.

Brilliant script – wry comments here and there that make you laugh out loud even if the situation is so appalling. Like the crying drunk in the lane, supposing that they need ‘to mix it up’ a bit when it comes to hangings and stonings so everyone doesn’t get bored…

Boisterous, playful and wickedly dark. An exceptional tale of how easily crowds can be manipulated, how individuals make their own choices and how much evil lurks in the human heart. As the credits run, the final footage of 1950’s school children watching Punch beat the hell out Judy and the looks of terror on their faces is especially chilling.

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