To Have And To Hold:
At the 45th Melbourne
International Film Festival

The I Magazine
January, 1997

by Jayne Margetts

Directed by John Hillcoat

AUSTRALIAN director John Hillcoat has proven himself to be a maestro of cinematically traversing the knife-edged tightrope of obsession and stark brutality with his critically-acclaimed debut feature Ghosts...Of The Civil Dead. This harrowing and stark film featured the dark, evangelical angel, Nick Cave while defining Hillcoat as one of Australia's most daring and vivid auteurs.

It has been eight long years since Hillcoat first bruised our psyches, and his absence from the big screen was due to attempts to finance his second feature journey to the heart of obsession and darkness, To Have And To Hold, a journey resplendent with his unique and surreal style.

To Have And To Hold - set in the steamy tropics of Papua New Guinea - stars French actor Toheky Karyo as Jack and Australian actress Rachel Griffith as romance novelist Kate.

Jack who lives his life in a drunken stupor is tormented by the ghost of his dead wife Rose. Arriving back in Australia a few years later, he meets Kate, a woman who bears an eerie resemblance to Rose, and who agrees to venture back with him to the village of his Sepik River home. Instinctually, Kate knows that Jack is a man who lives in the shadows but is unable to pinpoint what it is that is haunting him.

As they float down river towards Jack's home, Kate is uneasy and it isn't long before she discovers that her intuition was right. Meeting Jack's friends and hearing him behind the closed doors of his private room replaying home videos of Rose and snapshots of tribal and world violence, Kate chronicles her thoughts in book form. "She loved the blank places in his heart" she opines, never realising how close to the truth she is.

Exposing the forbidden fruits of obsession and succumbing to feverish bouts of insanity, Jack loses his hold on reality as images of Rose threaten to consume him whole. Kate, once she realises the severity of her situation and the unspoken violence within Jack, abandons herself to fate's hand regardless of the consequences.

Hillcoat with To Have And To Hold has created a picture that is reminiscent of a cross between The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now and The Mosquito Coast and through Jack's turbulent emotions and eyes the sultry humidity of the jungle and the bitter aftertaste of panic and alarm (as he sinks further down the obsessional spiral) are tangible enough to taste.

It is an experience that is feverish, intoxicating and atmospheric, especially with an eerie and hypnotic soundtrack from Nick Cave, Mick Harvey and Blixa Bargeld and demands your every attention and primal emotion. Visually, To Have And To Hold is immediately surreal and abstract and overflowing with visual poetry and Hillcoat yet again has far surpassed our wildest expectations with a question mark hovering over where he ventures next.


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