Sebastian Lister’s Hinterland is only 10 minutes long, but manages to create a devastating atmosphere within a few seconds. Based on a true story about a woman who had her children taken away by social services in the 1960s, Hinterland begins with the two toddlers being carried away by an unknown woman, while their single mother, sobbing and screaming, is throwing herself to unsympathetic coated men in despair, unable to stand or speak, entirely surrendered to the pain and panic that the thought of a life without her children has created. As she loses sight of them, she breaks down, and she never recovers.
Bianca Drakes is heartbreaking. Her protagonistic role in Hinterland is not just silent, but suffocating. She cries in the dark, breaks down in solitude, has no one to turn to. The character is tragic, but the actress carries it off with beauty and class – she falls apart and we know it, but she’s not pitiful or pathetic. She remains interesting and forces her audience to show her the respect she deserves. Alongside her, there are others: homeless, victims, loners. They cross paths without interacting, but they are all connected somehow. There’s pain and loss bringing these people together as well as pushing them apart, and Bianca Drakes’ character seems to be the crossroad where lost souls meet.
Read at Unsung Films: The Guest.
I mentioned earlier that our heroine is silent; the same goes for the rest of the characters too. Whether they suffer or bully, endure pain or attack, they are all soundless. The faces are doing the talking in Sebastian Lister’s film and it becomes clear that any actual speaking would have come across either lazy or redundant. If these actors (keep an eye out for Sebastian Lister’s homeless man) can display loneliness so remarkably in their weather-beaten faces, why should words be used? And if the child services trio – Lorraine Kozak, Doug Duvaney, Iain Neary – can exhibit such indifference and stone-heartedness through just their passing gaze and self-assured posture, then what is there to say?
A note on the cinematography and editing is essential: Cinematographers Daniel George Burke and Ian Foster and editors Burke, Roya Arab and Lister give us nothing concrete, but plenty of glimpses. These are passing images of hurt and isolation; black and white snapshots, a heart-rending photographic album that is inspired and affecting. They insist on nothing, and opt for giving us a taste of everything, without letting the agony take over us, but still affect us greatly. Hinterland ends with a gentle bang; a moment where despair and hope come to meet and where love comes from the most unexpected of places. It’s the end of this story and a beginning of another; the end of this life and the start of a new one.
Watch Hinterland here: