Matthew Berka

Entry #3

28.02.2016

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The last few days go by in a blink and the main revelation that pokes out to me is that of incomprehension. There is so much of the hydro-scheme, the valleys and mountains that cannot be understood, viewed and explored within a 2-week span or I suspect ever. Over the last few days I’ve captured many more fragments of footage looking towards the edges of perceptibility, much of which is verging on darkness.

I dig deeper into the series of archival DVD's I have acquired. The voice over commentary is largely distracting so I mute the volume and start to become aware of footage itself, the qualities of the various formats/film stocks used and the editing syntax that is placing emphasis on informational facts about the hydro-electric scheme and its usage of water energy. The different sections of footage seem to be produced by various energy companies and government organizations. I get the impression that much of the footage is proposing an overtly optimistic stance regarding the benefits of the scheme including an implicit approval of European land intervention. Other footage within the archive features a 1980's micro-documentary outlining both sides of a land debate between eco-conservationist and modern cattlemen as they quarrel over whether or not Europeans have actually damaged land in this region. Seeing the way the cattlemen are documented and depicted on screen is like seeing the record of a dying mythos, one that harks back to films like The Man From Snowy River. This mythos appears odd and obsolete in my eyes but I know it must've migrated elsewhere in the Australian collective psyche. There are many phantoms that exist in this place so I go out to film once more before I leave tomorrow, to see if any phantoms lurk in the Kiewa River at dusk.

After the sun had set down and the river had gone dark we watched Walkabout at the school. The English boy in the film starts to merge in my mind with the boy in the archival footage of Below The High Plains I was looking at a few days ago. His lapse of curious exploration to go wandering in the bush lasts momentarily and the boy is saved by his father safe and unscathed by the next shot - the scene suggests a cyclical process that resonates with Walkabout. Another scene strikes out at me: the boy, the girl and the aborigine enter an abandoned farmhouse, everything is ruined and portrait photographs hang on the walls, specters of the near but aloof past. After David Gulpilil’s character witnesses the death of a water buffalo shot by the rifles of white hunters he undergoes an intractable split in his psyche. He is sent into a prolonged ritual directed towards the girl that results in his self-inflicted passage from life. His dance was completely inscrutable to her. The scene is about a complete misunderstanding between them. She looks blank and ghostly when struck in a moment of reverie at the end of the film, recalling the Walkabout of her youth. I imagine that she is no closer to self-revelation than at the beginning of the film.


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