The King is Dead! (2012)

I’m on a bit of a Rolf de Heer (of Bad Boy Bubby fame) kick, after hearing about this new film. If you can find this, watch it. The Matriarch and I loved it.

A young Aussie couple move into a cute little house in the suburbs: their dream home, they think. On one side, a normal, sweet couple with a little girl: on their right, some scary, loud neighbours are in and out of the house of King.

They endure the constant sounds of domestic violence next door, nocturnal visits from vagrants, burglaries and break-ins to their home and plead in vain with the harmless but hopeless crackhead, King, to control what’s going on next door.

The cops can’t do anything, and after being pushed to their limit by some disturbing and nasty events, they decide to take matters into their own hands.

It is understated and naturalistic in de Heer’s usual style, and the black humour and constant feeling of dread and malice build through the entire thing. You end up laughing more than you normally would at stuff that isn’t, or shouldn’t be, funny, just to release your mounting tension.

It’s a funny film, but it never goes for the cheap, easy laughs. It doesn’t go for predictable character types. Nobody is entirely good, or entirely evil, and you are kept guessing up to the end. It’s unbelievably, unbearably suspenseful.

Four stars.

Dreams From My Father (Barack Obama, 1995)

A simple but beautiful narrative that showcases Obama’s gift with words and soul-searching bent.

It’s not a particularly political book. It’s a traditional autobiography, dealing with childhood and coming-of-age. It does, however, cover how Obama first got into politics and public life when he became an adult. For those interested in his entry to the political arena , it offers a valuable insight into the challenges of those early days, but it’s still very much tied in with his youth and the motivations that brought about his entry into this life.

Though it’s not by any means a lofty philosophical work, remaining accessible and simple in structure throughout, the most striking aspect of the work that lifts it out of being just a chronology  is Obama’s continuing preoccupation with questions of identity, belonging and change – about reconciling your self, your family, your past and your future.

Obama betrays a sensibility of the higher issues dealt with in philosophy and academia in relation to these issues, but never alienates the reader by becoming dry or impersonal in style or language.

Instead he shows that he feels keenly the same struggles that all men and women encounter in their hearts and asks himself the same questions we all ask of ourselves: about who they are, what they should do with their lives and where in the world they might belong.

And in his case, of course, the answer turned out to be extraordinary, but I think for that you have to read his next one, The Audacity of Hope.