Australian film shot entirely inside a car, The Plains, takes Wimmera out into the world

It was on their way to work at a community legal center in Melbourne that David Easteal and Andrew Rakowski decided to make a film shot entirely inside a car.

The semi-autobiographical feature, titled The Plains, was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

“It’s a three-hour hybrid documentary fiction film and a lot of it is, on some level, over the course of a year, about a middle-aged man driving home from the end of the working day,” the director, screenwriter and co-star Easteal said.

“[He’s] slowly learning more and more about what’s going on in his life and, on another level, the passage of time, aging, the impermanence of things.”

He said a car was an interesting place for conversation along these lines, as the two figures were “looking forward, not at each other”.

“It creates a kind of security,” Mr Easteal said.

The Plains feature the vast expanse of the Wimmera.(Provided: David Easteal)

The Wimmera link

The team made The Plains over a year with a storyline that changed and was added every month based on unforeseen developments in their lives and friendship.

One such development was a property Mr Rakowski and his wife purchased in the Wimmera area of ​​Victoria to facilitate travel to visit relatives in Adelaide.

“It’s a place of comfort for them, where we learn that they feel content and connected to life.

“But it’s still transitory.

“He [Andrew] just passing away, and for me, there’s a feeling that it just seems out of reach – there’s a feeling of nostalgia.”

The title of The Plains partly refers to the Wimmera.

“For me, the image of Cheri and Andrew alone on the plains, without children and now without parents, is very important in the film,” Mr Easteal said.

A man sitting next to a film camera in the backseat of a car.
Working with a small team allowed for organizational flexibility, but the work itself was somewhat cramped. (Provided: David Easteal)

Tight pressure

Filming inside the car meant the couple could only use a small crew.

Mr Easteal said the Arri Alexa camera they chose to use was “substantial”, but they wanted it for its visual and digital capabilities.

“It was an interesting process of putting the camera on the back each time and setting it down, grabbing it,” he said.

“[Director of photography Simon J Walsh] was way above that, but we had to do it every month and make sure the framing was the same.

Four men stand in front of a red car.
David Esteel [left] said working with a smaller team made it easier.(Provided: David Easteal)

Tom Hardy’s critically acclaimed 2013 film Locke was also shot almost entirely in a car, as were the works of other notable filmmakers such as Abbas Kiarostami and Jafar Panahi.

Mr Easteal said he was not inspired by Locke, however, and thought it was a very different film from The Plains.

The Plains recently screened in Paris, Mexico City and New York, and will have its Australian premiere at the Asia-Pacific Contemporary Art Triennial in Brisbane in April.

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