Proof (dir. Jocelyn Moorhouse)
After his knockout performance in L.A. Confidential, a lot of friends asked me about Russell Crowe and what else he had been in. Most folks’ eyes glazed over at a quick run-down of his filmography, perhaps recognizing The Quick and the Dead or Virtuosity. If I had to recommend one performance prior to his breakout role as Wendell "Bud" White it would be his role of Andy in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s 1991 film Proof.
"A movie about a blind photographer." That’s the jokey one-line description of this much deeper, well-acted and executed Australian film. Hugo Weaving stars as Martin, a bitter man who has been blind since birth and uses photographs to learn the truth about the world around him. In taking pictures, Martin documents the events of his life and lives outside of his blindness. To do so, however, he must enlist the aid of another person to describe the visuals of the photographs and to make the images come to life.
The person Martin finds to do this is Andy, a dishwasher whose alleycat companion is injured as a result of Martin’s misstep. Andy has a knack for capturing a lot of detail (with few words) in the description of Martin’s photographs; things that most people would miss and that give depth to images.
Soon we discover that the only other person in Martin’s life is Celia (Genevieve Picot), his housekeeper, who has a bizarre love/hate relationship with Martin. She seems to want to take care of Martin, yet she seems compelled to humiliate and abuse him at every turn. She finds nothing more pleasurable than making him think that his dog’s run away while he’s taking photographs in the park. Like a stalker, she wants him to realize how perfect she is for him and will do anything to keep him to herself.
By describing Martin’s photographs, Andy becomes the dictator of what is real (and not) to Martin. The photographs are the proof but Andy is the interpreter. Martin has to trust what Andy says and if anything is omitted or changed in the slightest than Martin’s whole world becomes a "variation" of the truth instead of a completely honest "vision."
I have yet to have met a human being that completely lives in the "real" worldsomeone who lives free of personal interpretation and is not influenced by the word of others. Martin’s inability to see his surroundings and the events going on in life makes him "blind" in the same way that a lot of "sighted" people either don’t see (or don’t want to see) what’s going on. Martin’s "blind faith" in Andy is merited but jeopardized when Andy feels that withholding information about a photograph might serve to shield his friend from hurt. What would normally be a "little white lie" to most folks warps Martin’s view and disturbs his surroundings as much as Celia’s constant furniture re-arranging.
Herein Proof becomes a film about trust and friendship that uses a physical disability as a provocative metaphor. Beautifully photographed, the well-crafted story moves at a leisurely pace without a scene out-of-place. One scene of character development recalls If You Could See What I Hear but Proof, while light-hearted at times, is a much more mature film.
Characters are dynamic and believable and all of the performances are spot on. Weaving stands out in the lead, winning an Australian Film Institute award for his role. Coupled with his slightly odd physical features, I actually thought Weaving was blind until seeing him in other films like The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Reckless Kelly(Yahoo Serious’ second film). Recently, Weaving turned in another great performance as the menacing Agent Smith in The Matrix.
Moorhouse has gone on to direct two films that I have had no desire to seeA Thousand Acres and How to Make an American Quiltbut might check out now that I’ve seen Proof.