The Darkside (PG)
Deborah Mailman, Bryan Brown, Aaron Pedersen
DIRECTOR: WARWICK THORNTON
REVIEW ROB BANKS'''
Perth actor Lyn Narkle opens this collection of indigenous ghost stories with an account of a dead relative seeking contact from beyond the grave.
It's not particularly spooky, more spiritual in the sense of stories of contact with the afterlife that abound in all cultures.
Thus spirituality rather than ghostliness is really the theme of director Warwick Thornton's dozen or so stories collated from the more than 150 "real-life" encounters that were sent to his website.
The Darkside is very much plain old unvarnished storytelling, with actors taking the place of the original yarn spinner to infuse each story with a sense of authenticity and emotional power.
Most of the storytelling, which does not require much in the way of visual embellishment despite the cinematic medium, is interesting, if not particularly gripping.
Where the horror-type ghost story in the style of Edgar Allen Poe holds the reader, or the viewer, with its unexpected turn of events, these encounters with the spirit world are delivered with a much more measured sense of wonder.
Thornton's camera remains static, sometimes homing in on the performers' faces as they stand on a beach, sit in a room, or perch on a bar stool.
Each actor's delivery is low-key, almost to the point of being deadpan in some instances.
Perhaps the most emotionally involving is the final story narrated by Darwin actress Shari Sebbens (The Sapphires) who sits sideways on a chair in a hospital corridor relating her family's tragedy.
Funnily enough, it's the stories related by white storytellers about their encounters with the Aboriginal spirit world that are the most intriguing.
We have an instance of white fisherman Graham (the typically laconic Bryan Brown) telling how a spiritual embodiment of the landscape ("sitting on the point was a girl") will reveal itself to those curious enough to listen and witness.
A similar sense of revelation of Aboriginal landscape or culture to a white person with an open mind comes through in the contributions of Claudia Karvan and Sacha Horler.
Both are interesting encounters with the indigenous spirit world, sounding sincere and authentic because the original teller genuinely believed in the experience.
The Darkside shows Thornton as a confident filmmaker, one of those talented enough to embark on a minimalist or boutique project that sits between his debut Samson and Delilah and whatever is his next major film.