The Rare Earth Directors Cut
Human evolution challenged
Aaron StevensonDirectorFreedom Deep, Welcome to Wherever You are, The Room Too
Eliza D'SouzaKey Cast
Martin KennedyCAST & CREW
Steve KilbeyCAST & CREW
Runtime:1 hour 34 minutes
Completion Date:February 14, 2022
Country of Origin:Australia
Country of Filming:Australia
Film Critic Review: Andrew L. Urban
The Rare Earth "blends a dystopian future with a bold account of the human evolution of Australian history to create a thought provoking experience on screen."
The film is as realistic as any David Lynch movie, and as slippery to grasp. I don't pretend to fully understand it, but one thing is pretty clear: Stevenson is a cinematic visionary who instinctively recognises that cinema is primarily and profoundly about images, images with music. Indeed, the film has little dialogue, and it is at its best when there isn't any.
"A fusion of science fiction, mysticism and post apocalyptic fantasy, The Rare Earth is framed with documentary elements and long stretches of straight drama. Some of those stretches remind us of The Road, others of road movies, and most of Lynch. Stevenson prefers the drama of close ups where he can turn the ordinary into something with exceptional meaning, and long shots, where he can create dramatic visual signatures, such as black figures moving across vast sand dunes against a blue sky. There are very few mid shots."
It was shot around Bendigo, Melbourne, Heathcote, Gippsland and Lake Mungo. Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy (All India Radio) produced a unique, brooding soundtrack that adds further depth to the film. The score, like the cinematography, are both exceptional.
Rare Earth Directors Statement
When I was at school in the late seventies, early eighties I remember reading in the newspapers about the human skeletons unearthed at Lake Mungo and their painstaking reconstruction by archaeologist Alan Thorne. Alan believed that the bones pre-dated Australian aboriginals by at least 20 thousand years while his colleague, Jim Bowler who discovered the find believed the bones to be aboriginal in origin, despite DNA testing and later carbon dating.
The oldest confirmed indigenous skeleton at that time was Kow Swamp Man around 17- 20 000 years old. The skull of Kow Swamp Man is similar to contemporary aboriginal examples whereas the much older Mungo Man skull was more elongated and refined, resembling modern European examples - an anomaly not politically supported.
These details fascinated me at the time, both as a wannabe filmmaker and as a young Australian studying in a white Catholic mono cultural secondary school governed by Marist Brothers. As it turned out Lake Mungo was not far from Mildura in Victoria, a place where my grandparents were buried and whose graves I had visited as a young child. I connected with this unique story that was of world wide significance as it was virtually in my own backyard.
The oldest aboriginal skeletons are around 20,000 years - Mungo Man is approx 42, 000 years old.
In the mid nineties, together with some mates, we inadvertently arrived at Lake Mungo whilst looking for a location for an entirely different feature film project called Freedom Deep. It was then that I realised this was the location and source of the stories I had earlier read as a Bendigo schoolboy way back in Year 7.
After filming there in 1994 I continued to visit every couple of years and further developed a spiritual connection to the space and its history.
In 2011, I went on a family holiday to Lake Mungo for a weekend of emus, sand, sun and exploring. Despite having cheap onsite accommodation, a free museum and a very user friendly infrastructure, the place was empty except for one other family. They also had two boys, but were from France and had travelled all this way to show their children first hand the origins of where modern man began.
Mungo is just over an an hour North of Mildura. It's not just in my families backyard, it’s in every Australian's backyard and although readily accessible receives little promotion and is under realised. I became disillusioned. As Australians why did we not care? It seemed to be a lack of information and public awareness. I searched for documentary evidence. What little visual documentation that existed was mostly out of date or trite ‘Getaway' magazine style programming of pretty pictures. Further attempts at investigation or search for moving visual documentation proved to be even more challenging than I had hoped or ever expected. Every piece of recorded documentation at the Australian film archive in 2010 could no longer be accessed. What did that mean? I think It meant that Australian history isn’t as clear cut as some of us would like or were led to believe.
It’s only now in very recent years that the Mungo Man story is a part of the national school curriculum which was the result of tireless campaigning and efforts of a dedicated few, including Professor Bowler’s wife Joan and his daughter Jenny - a teacher and education advisor. Professor Bowler’s story is in itself a fascinating one and the subject of a separate documentary. I realised with the existing materials suppressed that I would need to make my own documentary account of his journey. He had declined more commercial productions such as “60 Minutes” as he was concerned about getting the story right and opposing agendas. He also spent many years and a great deal of money writing and having a book edited that is still not finished.
In 2015 when we were commencing post production on our movie, George Miller was asked as to why his new Mad Max had so little dialogue? George replied to that current question exactly as he had done with the release of Mad Max 2 in 1981, which was that dialogue is for stage plays or shows on TV. Cinema on the other hand is a visual experience that should not necessarily rely on exposition to have an impact - good or bad. It’s this unique ability to affect an audience and for them to process and interpret that experience that makes cinema. Stanley Kubrick and surprisingly Sylvester Stallone have both said that the ideal movie would only have one line of dialogue and that fifty percent of great visuals is actually sound. These philosophies of film as a language have inspired the format and visual style of The Rare Earth.
Alan Thorne spent many, many years piecing together two puzzles that became known globally as Mungo Lady and Mungo Man. The Rare Earth feels similar; every piece is there for a reason, dependent on another to complete the puzzle.