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Beneath Clouds is a very understated movie, the story literally moves along at a walking pace as do the characters themselves.  It's hard to even classify this film as a drama in the traditional sense as everything that takes place is about as low key as you can get, which makes it all the more powerful to watch.  The countryside is both beautiful and desolate which augments the isolation of all who live in the more remote regions of this land, also the increasing imagery of industrialisation highlights the effect that civilisation has had on this (or any other) landscape.

Beneath Clouds

The Aboriginal race of Australia have unfortunately been deemed as outcasts in their own land, just like many other countries have had to face where white man has taken over from them.  It is here through the character of Vaughan that we see a people that has had to accept the reluctant fate that's been dealt to them and the years of resentment towards the "pioneers" of their country.  The character of Lena represents, initially to Vaughan's eyes, yet another white person who has warily detached themselves away from his own people.  However, the two slowly develop a distant yet mutual bond as they journey towards their eventual and separate destinations.

One thing that the parents might want to note here is that nearly every second word spoken is the "firetruck" word which will no doubt offend the more sensitive of viewers out there.  Therefore, some of you may be initially against wanting to expose the young ones to this kind of assaultive verbal barrage, but then no amount of censorship to this or any other questionable material in movies will stop a child of impressionable age from experiencing it in one way or another.  So if you can at least accept the fact that bad language is an unfortunate reflection of society's ills, then Beneath Clouds ultimately offers a way to convey its message through what is probably already familiar territory to the kids of today.

Beneath Clouds

This film does not offer any quick-fix answers to life's eternal struggle of mistrust and ignorance between the different cultures and age-groups of society, but what it also does not do is ignore the reality of Australian life which is portrayed as truthfully and honestly as possible here without any form of fanfare or over-dramatisation.  The message that it shares with us is of a limited yet life-changing understanding for each other's displacement in the world ... this is presented as a slow germination from a seed of thought rather than having someone trying to uproot a whole tree and replant it in your mind forcibly.

Movie
Set within the backdrop of rural Australia, this is the tale of two adolescent teenagers named Lena (Danielle Hall) and Vaughan (Damian Pitt) who meet at an unassuming crossroad of life.

Lena is a fair-skinned schoolgirl who lives with her Aboriginal mother, however her estranged father is an Irishman who currently resides in Sydney.  Vaughan is serving time for car theft at a youth lockup facility and has just been told that his mother is dying.  Both Lena and Vaughan see reason to escape their "prisons" in life and they eventually cross each others paths at a local roadstop.  They are naturally cautious of each other, but with no money or transport they reluctantly find themselves together on the road.  Slowly, they discover the smallest of things in each other that inadvertantly filter through into their psyche and maybe even help them find some solace in an otherwise unforgiving world.

The finale of this film will leave you wondering what will eventually become of them, however this open-ended conclusion is probably more desirable than any that may finalise the fate of the two characters.

Beneath Clouds

Video
This is about as near to perfection as you can possibly get especially for a low-budget Australian movie, but this 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is not 16:9-enhanced even though the DVD cover says that it is.

Colours are for the most part vibrant in all the daytime sequences, except for the magic-hour, night-time and mist-laden shots which exhibit a naturally underwhelming tone.  Black levels and shadow detail are spot on with no hint of low-level noise.  Grain takes a back seat so it's hardly visible to the discerning eye and there are absolutely no artifacts of the film or digital kind either.  The image itself is pretty much rock solid for the majority of scenes as well.  Finally, the lack of any colour bleeding along with a pinpoint sharpness of the image will impress even the most ardent of DVD watchers out there.

Audio
Both the 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital mixes are perfectly adequate for this kind of slow-paced movie, although oddly enough they appear to be differently mixed in more ways than one.

Beneath Clouds

The 5.1 soundtrack has more presence but with a slightly odd "processed" sound compared to the more generic sounding 2.0 one.  Ambience is very effective especially in the more pronounced 5.1 mix with both the subtle and dramatic passages being well supported in the surround channels and subwoofer, although for some reason much of the background sounds tend to get lost on a normal TV's audio setup.  Dialogue in both mixes is given a boost, much more than in most other movies but not annoyingly so with perfect clarity for all voices present.  Panning of the various sounds are used to their fullest in both soundtracks with lots of left-right directivity when trucks and cars roar by including full use of the surround channels (directional for 5.1 and mono for 2.0 of course).  The music is just as unassuming as the pace of the movie itself which is perfectly complemented into the mix through all six speakers.

The strangest thing about each of these soundtracks is that there appears to be certain sound elements either lacking or added in depending on the scene ... I'm not sure if this was done on purpose or maybe something went astray when they were both created.  In one example (the Church scene) it begins to rain and Vaughan is making a small fire within the building.  In the 2.0 mix you hear the rain and thunder coming down heavily but with the sounds of crackling fire barely registering.  In the 5.1 mix however the rain and thunder are almost non-existant but you hear the embers of the fireplace echoing throughout the interiors of the structure.  Careful observation also notes that the dialogue has exactly the same inflections on each soundtrack so I'd almost hazard to say that this was ADR'd at a later date.

Beneath Clouds

Extras
Two unrelated trailers for other Dendy titles.  There are no subtitles for the movie unfortunately, so if you don't have any trouble understanding the accent and nuances of Aussie-speak then there's really no need for a transcription of the dialogue (unless you don't speak English that is).

Overall
This is the kind of movie that may well settle back into obscurity only because of its modest approach at telling the story, unlike the more pronounced offerings of Rabbit Proof Fence or The Tracker.  This film really has no beginning or end as it portrays the continual passing of life that everyone goes through,  the many people that we meet merely a glimpse of nothing in particular or maybe something even more than what we imagine could happen to us in the end.

Beneath Clouds has to be one of the most subtle of messages ever portrayed within any medium, but no doubt the intention here was to absorb itself into our unconsciousness so that it might help to change our own perceptions and misconceptions of the unknown in our lives.


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