|Ryan Kwanten, Griff the Invisible|
Recently selected for the Toronto and Berlin Film Festivals, Griff the Invisible features an Australian superhero not quite able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and who, by day, suffers bullying in the workplace while exacting revenge at night by fighting injustice in his neighbourhood.
Recent Australian film has tended to emphasise rural nostalgia (The Tree, Summer Coda, Lou, The Boys Are Back), gritty realism (Animal Kingdom) and mainstream comedy/romance (Bran Nue Dae, I Love You Too), so it’s great to see a director who’s not afraid of an experimental touch or play with genre. Leon Ford is well-known as an actor (Beneath Hill 60, Changi) while his short films Katoomba and The Mechanicals have shown a real talent for writing in particular, winning awards at the Sydney and St Kilda Film Festivals. He joins a spate of actors (Rachel Ward, Serhat Caradee, Anthony Hayes, Nash Edgerton, Matthew Newton) turning their hand to directing, with accomplished results for their first features. These directors also have a good feel for casting: Griff the Invisible goes against type with Ryan Kwanten (who does awkward as well as he does tough-guy in Red Hill and True Blood), Maeve Dermody (Beautiful Kate) as the fragile but potent Melody, and Toby Schmitz (The Pacific, Three Blind Mice and, onstage, Ruben Guthrie for Belvoir) charismatic as the arrogant bully Tony.
The film opens with a quotation from Oscar Wilde—“Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”—as we enter the frame of a large telescope, eyeing the cityscape, before panning around a room full of surveillance equipment on red alert for action in the streets. A woman walks, pursued by a man in a strange top hat. This is a nice parody of the big-budget blockbusters, like Superman Returns, filmed on our shores, before we’re introduced to our truly B-grade superhero in a cheap black rubber suit with a large gold G on the chest, for Griff, not Gotham.
Griff the Invisible has no superpowers that we can see but carries a blade that he swipes cartoon-style through the necks of his assailants. Kwanten has the physical ability to transform easily, moving beautifully between his alter egos. He practises his lines in front of the mirror at home—“It’s okay, you’re safe”—and searches for the right descriptor—Griff the Protector? Griff the Hidden?—as much for himself as the victims he defends.
|Toby Schmitz, Griff the Invisible|
|Maeve Dermody and Ryan Kwanten, Griff the Invisible|
The entire plot fixes on the fight/flight response and which way Griff will turn at any moment. His life is about boundaries: who can cross them, when and where, and the possibilities of transformation. Melody, instead, wants to transcend her limitations right here right now, even attempting to walk through walls to reach Griff. With his central couple, Ford has almost effortlessly created (where films like I Love You Too and Summer Coda haven’t quite succeeded) an alluring and enduring romantic comedy, with characters complex and intertwined. It’s a strange and whimsical world for the viewer to inhabit but a terrific and courageous debut.
Griff the Invisible, writer, director Leon Ford, producer Nicole O’Donohue, executive producers Jan Chapman, Scott Meek, cinematography Simon Chapman, editor Karen Johnson, sound designer Sam Petty, production designer Sophie Nash, original music Kids At Risk; www.grifftheinvisible.com
This article was fist published online, Jan 17, 2010
RealTime issue #101 Feb-March 2011 pg. web
© Kirsten Krauth; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org