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love the beast: bogan dreams and endless love

kirsten krauth


Eric Bana, Love the Beast Eric Bana, Love the Beast
ERIC BANA GREW UP IN THE INDUSTRIALISED NORTHWESTERN SUBURBS OF MELBOURNE. THE FLAT PLAINS AROUND TULLAMARINE AIRPORT. ON THE WEEKENDS HE DID NIGHTSHIFT STACKING SUPERMARKET SHELVES. HE LIVED FOR CARS: “IF IT HAD WHEELS AND AN ENGINE I WANTED TO DRIVE IT.” THE CONSTANTS IN HIS LIFE WERE HIS MATES AND HIS “BEAST.”

For the ‘Essendon Grammar Mafia’, a car was the ultimate status symbol. When he saw Mad Max it all came together, a marriage of his two favourite things: film and a Ford GT Falcon Coupe. Twenty-five years later he still has an enduring love for his first car, the subject of this, Bana’s directorial debut.

I grew up in these suburbs too. Niddrie, Essendon and Ascot Vale. Cruising by day in a boyfriend’s Valiant in my teens. A low-slung Jag in my 20s. There were still drive-ins then. It seemed that everyone’s dad, like Bana’s, had a large American 50s car locked up in the garage like a caged bird—or dreamed of one. With hopes of restoration, a red T-bird rising like a phoenix. A cool night out meant snaking through the freeways until the dawn hours. Over the Westgate Bridge, watching the industrial lights on the water at Williamstown, often never leaving the car. Or if we did, to a games alley of Fanta and flashing lights, where men sat in booths gripping wheels. Racing each other on the screens instead of tarmac. While their girlfriends watched on, barracking glassy-eyed, pretending not to yawn. Once (and never again), a police chase after drag racing, where we lost ‘em in the leafy Eastern suburbs.

Chopper Read. Con in The Castle. Henry Tudor. The Incredible Hulk. Spielberg’s next big thing. It just got more amazing to watch our Eric take off into the Hollywood stratosphere, given his beginnings. But Eric Banadinovich was always a bogan to me. And I mean that as a compliment (it takes one to know one). Which is why this film is such a little gem. Because Bana is so conscious of his place in all of this. He belongs in the rollerdoor garage, with his mates who prefer the gesture to the spoken word, loving their cars, planning the rally drives that demand such intense concentration.

The film is meandering and rough-and-ready but is dynamite action once Bana and his buddies hit Tassie for the Targa—a tarmac rally on closed roads that traverses the state and is held over five days with 45 separate races; you’re up against yourself and the clock. Like watching the Tour de France, the scenery grabs you and the racing itself is spellbinding to watch. We become backseat drivers while Bana’s navigator reads out instructions from the pace notes with precision timing, describing his mate as a “big remote control dummy.” Watching Bana drive so fast is like following a musical score. You are suspended by the beats and pauses and pulses. Crescendos as you ride the crests. And as Bana notes, peak performance is not just about feeding his competitive nature, there’s another side where he forgets about cars and can reach “another world”, a meditative state on the line between life and death. And the doco builds a terrific amount of tension in anticipating the inevitable crash—including the voice of Bana’s son Klaus, on his phone answering machine, layered over shots of the race, asking Bana: “When you crashed, did you cry?”

By immersing us in this intimate world of men’s love for each other (and their machines) for most of the film, Bana’s later arrival in Hollywood takes on a surreal edge with which we can fully empathise. Bana plays the game beautifully and appears to be in his element. He man-hugs Jay Leno and visits his obscene palace of cars and motorbikes (car showroom in size); he sits opposite Dr Phil (hand on chin and, perhaps, tongue in cheek) and gets some therapy on whether he should continue with this hobby that puts his life at risk. But in a hotel room, preparing for the premiere of a film, Lucky You, that he made two years ago with Drew Barrymore, he seems lonely. He jokes about wearing his racing shoes on the red carpet, fully understanding the implications for world fashion as we know it—”Wow, those shoes are soooo awesome”, he says in a perfect American accent, summarising the banality of the media world he inhabits. And true to form, when he arrives to face the cameras, an eyelash flutterer with a microphone, in her big moment to ask about the film, says, “I love your hair, you have such great hair.” Priceless. No wonder he prefers the company of his car and his taciturn mates.


Love the Beast, director, writer, producer Eric Bana, producers Peter Hill, Matt Hill, cinematographers David Rose, Rod Pollard, editor Conor O’Neill, composer Yuri Worontschak, Whyte House Productions, Pick Up Truck Pictures, 2009

RealTime issue #90 April-May 2009 pg.

© Kirsten Krauth; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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