Screening on the last day of this year’s Brisbane International Film Festival, Director Mark Leonard Winter’s ‘The Rooster’ is a meditative tale about masculinity and loss.
Not without its moments of humour, it is certainly a bleak tale in bleak surroundings. Yet the redemptive qualities of friendship remain powerful and there is hope to be found in this haunting tale.
Phoenix Raei plays a cop in small-town Victoria where a death takes place, and a body is found out in the woods. For reasons the film will gradually reveal, this death haunts the police officer who goes camping out in the woods to find answers for himself at the site of where the body was found. He comes across a hermit played by Hugo Weaving who lives nearby in a shack.
The woods are deep and dark and isolated from the rest of the world. The Hermit is volatile and unpredictable, a grown-up take on the fairy tale where a beast is found and humanised by the protagonist. ‘The Rooster’ knows it is not that simple, but the beast is still hurting and not without humanity. The story takes its time to have both men unburden themselves with their truths and try to find some peace.
Mark as Writer and Director provokes interpretation and reflection. Discoveries are paced and shot to reveal themselves gradually and it is the same with the dialogue. What we see and what we hear might not be the truth, just an interpretation from a character so they can get through the day.
The story has the set-up for a murder mystery, but this is not an exciting police thriller, it is instead a character study with two strong performances at the centre of it. Hugo is convincing as a man who is not quite right and has stepped away from society. He chews scenery but remains believable both as a threat and a victim. Phoenix ably matches him as the straight man but beneath he is always trying to unearth as much information as he can.
Like all great character studies there are clues sprinkled throughout and, in the days ahead you will find yourself reflecting on these two men and hoping they found peace. ‘The Rooster’ is not for everyone, but it will stay with you.