Sunday, October 29, 2006

Further thoughts on Werribee

I remember Werribee. In 1980 and 1981, before I learned to drive, I caught the train between Melbourne and Geelong a lot. Going through Werribee (as through any town) on a train was instructive, at once depressing and intriguing. Backyards tell you a lot. Houses backing onto the railway line tell you more.

My guess is that none of the Werribee gang grew up near the railway line; this story seems more akin to the one that came out of Sydney a few years ago about private schoolboys forcibly sodomising each other with large wooden objects. But the 'wrong side of the tapestry' effect of what you see when you ride on a train through a town is sticking in my mind.

Barista has posted a link to, and some thoughts on, the Today Tonight follow-up segment on which, at the request of the victim's father, some edited grabs from the notorious DVD were screened. If your stomach can stand it, it is quite instructive. Check out the POV: who has the camera? Isn't there some uncertainty there, a kind of hesitation about the gap between events as planned and events as they unfold? What does he choose to focus on?

Then there's the sequence of events. Nobody in it seems to quite know how this story is supposed to go. One of the perpetrators even comments on this fact. Nobody knows where they are supposed to be looking. 'The Victim' is clearly not the focus of their attention. The focus of their attention, insofar as they have one, seems to be the camera.

While I watched this weird anti-spectacle, I felt two things, both seen many years ago and long forgotten, scratching at the back of my mind. One was a wildlife doco about hyenas: approach in packs, circle, hang back, rush in and snatch or snarl and then back off again. The other was Peter Brook's 1963 movie of Lord of the Flies.

I remembered a story our English teacher told us about the filming of this movie. You could see her wondering, while she was telling us, whether she ought to be doing so. Apparently the perfectly nice stitched-up 1960s middle-class schoolboy cast went increasingly feral as the filming progressed. One night one of the on-location adults went to investigate a commotion in one of the bedrooms and found the boys chucking freshly-caught lizards into the blades of a full-speed electric fan.

Still from Lord of the Flies, 1963


JahTeh said...

I could never watch the film and never finished the book but I'm not surprised that the boys got totally in character.

Mikhela said...

I went to secondary school in Werribee, and my mother still lives there. For me it's simply a sleepy, fairly boring outer suburb, but I understand that for everyone else it has acquired some grim connotations. We like to locate our atrocities in a (far away) place, then ascribe site-specific attributes to them. That way they won't happen here.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Good point. Remember the jokes that went around about Moe after Jaidyn Leskie was killed? And the words 'Snowtown' and 'Truro' are still horrible in many South Australian minds.