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Savage River Is A Gripping New Take On The Australian Gothic

Review: Savage River, directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse.

Miki Anderson (Katherine Langford), fresh out of prison for a teenage murder, returns to her hometown of Savage River. She is determined to put the past behind her, but the town’s mistrust worsens with another murder days after Miki returns.

Determined to uncover the truth and clear her name, Miki sets out to uncover the real killer and, in doing so, unearth long-hidden secrets.

It might be tempting to assume you know how the story unfolds, but this new ABC six-part series isn’t your typical murder mystery. wild river Explore the complex social realm as the city’s class and racial tensions become key to the narrative.

Miki is a fascinating portrait of a complex and contradictory femininity. Langford is brilliant, bringing a moving mix of grit and vulnerability to the role, delivering a stern look and withdrawn demeanor that contradicts both Miki’s prison experience and her partially remaining role as a teenage identity. .

Shimmering pink nail polish and sunny cycling memories clash with the dull fluorescent depression of the local bar and the blood on the slaughterhouse floor.

australian gothic

The soundtrack (composed by Bryony Marks) creates a haunting atmospheric quality, and the series uses classic Gothic tropes: spooky landscapes, isolated rural settings marked by decay, trappings and claustrophobic themes, and the unresolved past. invades the present.

It represents the contemporary style of Australian Gothic.

Australian Gothic is associated with the colonial gaze, which sees horror in the Australian bush or “uncivilized” outback, presented evocatively in wake up (1971) and Picnic at the hanging rock (1975).

It is a contemporary take on Australian Gothic.Photo: ABC Television

In the settler’s imagination, the Australian landscape was seen as a source of terror, hiding any unknown threat to the settlers. In Australian Gothic works they grapple with alienation, melancholy and isolation, reflecting fears inspired by colonial experiences.

This white colonial gaze on wild river. While the Victorian bushland provides an atmospheric setting, a sense of menace and violence centers on the town’s slaughterhouse.

Facing enigmatic financial difficulties and long past its heyday as the city’s economic savior, the meatpacking plant is the seat of white patriarchy. It was founded by the aging mayor’s father and is owned by the mayor’s son, Kevin (Daniel Hensall), who keeps the place afloat by exploiting refugees with precarious visa conditions.

When Miki gets a job at the slaughterhouse, we see a harsh reality: wild river is a city built on blood and carnage, a fact that references the colonial violence that underlies modern Australia.

Who is recognized as missing?

Australian Gothic isn’t the only genre wild river To play. The plot is driven by a murder mystery, and just days after Miki returns home, a white man goes missing and is found dead.

At the same time as the man disappeared, a refugee woman named Laila (Haya Abbas) also disappeared for several days. Layla’s sister, Jamila (Maya Abbas), tries to get the men around her to take Layla’s disappearance seriously, but to no avail, the show raises questions about the town’s mixed attitude towards the two people missing. focus on.

wild river Think about the value you would place on different lives. Photo: ABC Television

In one scene, the town’s resident bronze man, quintessential “average white” Bill Kirby (Robert Grubb), prepares for the town’s annual celebration. When Bill was putting traffic cones on the grass, he was on the phone, reporting the missing white man in a worried tone. Jamila approaches him and asks him to help her find Layla, who she thinks is gone, just like the missing person. Bill was deliberately confused and asked, “Where did he go?”

When Jamila begged him to go see Laila, Bill angrily pointed at the preparations around him, then convinced her to walk away, saying, “Okay, I can’t do anything today,” as if his hands were tied.

The parties in town take precedence over Laila’s disappearance.

Attributed to American journalist Gwen Ifill, the term “missing white woman syndrome” has been used to describe this grossly uneven media coverage and racist public attention.

Murder mysteries often replicate the syndrome of blonde screen icons like Laura Palmer twin peaks (1990), and more recent adaptations lost lover (2014) and girl on the train (2016).

wild river Reject racist, misogynistic and classist tropes. Here, the city’s patriarchal capitalist rulers exude a sense of menace, who made their fortunes by slaughtering animals. Police indifference and racism are challenged, and white male power is explored as a corrupting influence.

The show also has a lot of heart and has some really adorable characters. The plot is heartbreaking and the story will blow your mind.

Savage River airs on ABC TV Sunday at 8:30 p.m., with the first episode now on ABC iView.

Emma Maguire is a Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at James Cook University. She studies gender, digital media and autobiography, and is currently writing a book on transmedia and stories of female sexual violence in the wake of #MeToo.This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original text.

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