After a string of rejections a young girl explores her sexual desires, vulnerabilities, surreal dreams, and yearnings to be anywhere else.
Imogen McCluskey is a writer and filmmaker based in Sydney. A current student of Australian Film Television and Radio School, her work explores the intimate and sometimes absurd reality of individual experience. This is her first short film.
Your film will have a world premiere at In The Palace Film Festival. How did you choose Bulgaria as your first big screening for the film? How do you think the Bulgarian audience will receive it?
First off I’m so happy that In the Palace Film Festival chose our film to be part of their program. I always thought that our short would appeal more to European audiences than American (or even Australian) festivals, so when I saw In The Palace advertising I immediately responded to the playful and inclusive attitude of the festival, that seemed to appreciate film as expression and art which is something I aim for in my film-making. I hope the audiences enjoy the screening, and identify with the protagonist, especially as the film (hopefully) allows space for the audience to project ideas and feelings through the stylized surreal sequences which explore emotions around rejection, suppressed emotions and the desire for freedom you mention in the next question.
Horses are often used to illustrate passion, drive and desire for freedom. Last act of a dying horse seems to approach this symbol in a surreal manner but goes further to explore the intimate reality of a young woman searching for love. How did you choose the metaphor for your title?
Last Act of a Dying Horse is a title that came first, then attached itself slowly to images which make up the completed film. The surreal scene where our protagonist jumps into a pool after she has been rejected sexually was one of the first scenes I came up with. This scene is meant to act as metaphor, and I guess represents the suppressed and unsatiated desire for love and freedom felt by the character, which in turn relates to the title. Each scene of the film flips between reality and her daydreams or surreal desires, so I find a certain freedom in not having to conform to strict ‘reality’ or a classic three-act structure. To me, film is an expressive art form, and this film was my first sort of experiment in this vein of film-making that combines reality with dreaming and surreal scenes.
Many are saying that Australian film is still searching for identity and audience. What are your thoughts on the future of Australian cinema?
There are many factors at play here – mainly a dislocated and hesitant national identity which is both in the shadow of England, and battling with a horrific history of colonial rule and genocide of our indigenous peoples. Simply, many Australian films speak to Australia that I don’t recognize, or represent caricatures or stereotypes which are both harmful and a reduction of the complexity of Australian people and culture, and also the richness of experience one gains from growing up in this society. So I have many thoughts and hopes for the future of Australian cinema. I hope that it will become more bold and expressive, displaying a specific point of view about the world and those who occupy it in the vein of European filmmakers I love such as Roy Andersson, or Andrea Arnold.
What is it like for a young filmmaker to start a career in Australia?
Our conservative Liberal government has slashed an immense amount of funding to the Arts, stripping away many valuable programs which enabled young filmmakers to access funding and support. For a young filmmaker in Australia, it’s very much up to the individual to connect with likeminded people and form communities and production companies that rebel against the status quo.
You also work as an actress and a writer. What other projects are you currently working on?
I just completed my first feature Suburban Wildlife in February this year. We have just finished a rough cut and are in talks with distributors and are looking for funding to complete post-production. We have an amazing team of highly talented young creatives who joined us on this journey, including my incredible cinematographer Lucca Barone-Peters who also shot Last Act of a dying horse. Part of the joy has been seeing our progress from that short film to our feature. So my time is very much occupied by that film, plus I want to finish a few more short films during my final year of film school – make the most out of the free equipment while I still can!
Interview by Teia Brînză