Review: ‘The Quarry’

The attempt to create a modern parable about identity and responsibility falls short of its target in the Euro co-production "The Quarry." While the film is intriguing in parts, it is too oblique to reach a wide audience, and will find only limited exposure on the fest circuit and scattered sales aimed at the arthouse crowd.

The attempt to create a modern parable about identity and responsibility falls short of its target in the Euro co-production “The Quarry.” While the film is intriguing in parts, it is too oblique to reach a wide audience, and will find only limited exposure on the fest circuit and scattered sales aimed at the arthouse crowd. Pic shared top prize in Montreal and an award for Takashi Kako’s music score.

Set in the South African outback, story centers on an escaped criminal (John Lynch). He receives a ride from a minister who makes sexual advances and accidentally kills him in the ensuing scuffle. He buries him in an inactive quarry.

Taking on the identity of the reverend, he arrives at the remote northern outpost where the dead man was to assume a post. With his simple manner, he’s able to satisfy the townspeople’s hunger for spiritual guidance and serve the community. But petty thieves discover that he’s an impostor, and the threat of exposure unbalances the situation.

Filmmaker Marion Hansel’s problems begin with her script, which leaves us guessing about the nature of the bogus minister’s original crime. The village is also a curiosity, leaving one to fill in key information about relationships, justice and even the time period in which the action unfolds. Though presumably modern-day, the ambiguous nature of the piece leaves even this issue in question. A too-pat ending doesn’t help.

Lynch’s character is least well served by the storytelling. Jonne Phillips, as the local cop, and Oscar Petersen, as one of the thieves, jump out more forcefully simply because their roles are clearly defined in realistic terms.

“The Quarry” is rooted in a realistic visual style, and though its production credits are clean and professional, a more fanciful, absurd look may have better tipped the audience to the underlying meanings in what emerges as a muddled morality play.

The Quarry

Belgian-French-Dutch-Spanish

Production

A Man's Film/Tchin Tchin/Studio Nieuwe Gronden/Wanda Films production. (International sales: Seawell Films, Paris.) Produced by Marion Hansel. Co-producer, Jeremy Nathan. Directed, written by Marion Hansel, based on the novel by Damon Galgut.

Crew

Camera (Eastmancolor, Panavision widescreen), Bernard Lutic; editor, Michele Hubinon; music, Takashi Kako; art director, Thierry Leproust; costume designer, Yann Tax; sound (Dolby), Philippe Baudhuin, Benoit Biral; assistant director, Patrick Delabriere; casting, Mooneen Lee. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (competing), Sept. 1, 1998. Running time: 114 MIN.

With

The Man - John Lynch
Capt. Mong - Jonne Phillips
Valentine April - Oscar Petersen
The Woman - Sylvia Esau
Small - Jodi Abrahams
Rev. Frans Niemand - Serge-Henri Valcke
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