Aussie indie ‘The Square’ nails neo-noir
A good neo-noir film is dark, both visually and thematically. It will typically involve murder, suspicion, and betrayal and will contain lots of tense moments when you can see the characters getting in over their heads. Australian indie The Square, directed by Nash Edgerton, definitely fits this bill.
Raymond (David Roberts) is a foreman working on the construction of a new resort. His everyday life is monotonous and the only real exciting aspect is his affair with Carla (Claire van der Boom), a younger, married woman. Carla’s husband Smithy (Anthony Hayes) isn’t the most upstanding individual and returns home one day with blood on his hands and a duffle bag full of cash. Like a good femme fatale, Carla convinces her lover, Raymond, to help her steal the money. The two hatch a plan to burn down the house, leading Smithy to believe the money burnt up in the fire. Raymond hires Billy (Joel Edgerton who co-wrote the script) to commit the arson, making it look like the fire was caused by faulty Christmas tree lights. Suddenly, arson turns into murder when they discover that Smithy’s elderly mother was in the house at the time of the blaze. This sets off a downward spiral for Raymond and Carla as they sink deeper and deeper into darkness trying to cover up their deadly plot.
Noir films are some of the most interesting and intriguing in film history for their ability to draw us in by watching the downfall of the main characters. Right from the start, you know things won’t end well for the hero and his female co-conspirator, but you’re fascinated to find out the turn of events that will lead them to their eventual doom. In 1944’s Double Indemnity, insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) gets mixed up with the wrong woman (Barbara Stanwyck) and ends up committing murder and throwing his entire life into a tailspin for her, only to be betrayed and trapped in the end. Like Double Indemnity, we see Raymond get ensnared by the charms of his young, attractive mistress and watch as he becomes entangled in a web that turns more sinister by the minute. One crime leads to another, which creates more loose ends that need to be dealt with, and thus more serious crimes.
This style of film is one area where indies truly shine. In a story where characters are morally ambiguous and headed down a twisted road to ruin, it’s much easier to get wrapped up in the story if you’re not familiar with the actors. Filmmakers have more freedom to make their heroes flawed, and sometimes downright unlikeable, when an audience is able to completely buy into the story. Roberts, in particular, is able to be completely morally flawed while keeping audiences captivated by Raymond’s demise. On the same note, van der Boom doesn’t quite fit the mold for the typical vampish woman, which only makes Carla more dangerous. There’s an exciting tension as you watch the two dig themselves deeper and resort to paranoid, erratic actions to try to cover their tracks.
If you’re a fan of twisted neo-noir thrillers, definitely find out if The Square is playing at a theater near you. If you can’t find it in it’s limited theater release, be sure to check it out when it hits Netflix.