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January 2011

Broken Sun

cast: Shingo Usami, Jai Koutrae, Galvin Scott Davis, Rudi Baker, and James Bishop

director: Brad Haynes

91 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2

RATING: 5/10
review by Ian Hunter

Broken Sun

Broken Sun is director Brad Hayes first film and, by all accounts, it is obviously a labour of love, with Haynes and his producers funding the short six-week shoot needed to make the movie without the help of grants and subsidies and then cannily opening the film on Anzac day, which takes place on 25th April, originally to mark those from Australia and New Zealand who had been killed at Gallipoli in the First World War. After its opening, Broken Sun was given a short run in selected cinemas before now being released on DVD.

What we get is a grim, well-meaning, antiwar movie which belies its meagre budget and looks good, if bleak, right from the start. Broken Sun is beautifully shot, although the subject matter is far from beautiful and is a bit depressing. At the start we have an opening shot of a hanging man, and the story is then told with the main narrative being interrupted by a series of flashbacks before returning, full circle, to that swaying man. While there are probably too many flashbacks (even if they are aided by different coloured tints to represent different periods), which can be confusing at times, Haynes does well given the films budgetary restrictions to capture First World War in the European trenches and in the Pacific.

Jack (Jai Koutrae) is a farmer, barely existing on his rural farm in New South Wales, who is haunted by the past and his experiences at the Somme in World War I. He struggles to get through the day, with lungs scarred by mustard gas, making everything an effort, and he prefers to be on his own, alone with his suffering and his memories, and the ghosts of those he has lost in the past, particularly his friend Allan. Then his routine is shattered when he encounters the exhausted Masaru (Shingo Usami), an escaped Japanese prisoner of war who has been involved in a mass breakout from the Cowra prison camp.

For many of Masaru's comrades, war - like the rest of their life - is a matter of honour, and to retain their honour they have to escape, even if they die trying. Being killed by the enemy brings honour, being imprisoned, while taking your own life brings only dishonour. Masaru has escaped but now been captured again, and not even by a soldier. For Jack, the only way to return things to a semblance of normality is for him to get the prisoner back to his camp, undertaking a journey that will change them both. Jack prefers to be alone, and even when he is taking Masaru back to the camp, he talks to himself, thinking his prisoner does not understand English, and slowly something like a bond, or understanding develops between the two men, reinforced by flashbacks which show their experiences that led up to this meeting between them.

The film is well acted, with Jack handicapped by his lungs and his past, and Masaru handicapped by his culture and the expectations of those around him. His parents want him to live, he wants to live, but honour dictates he should not. Guilt hangs over both of them - the guilt of what they have done, or the guilt of what they have failed to do. To sum up, Broken Sun is not an easy watch, but a considerable achievement for Haynes, who will no doubt go on to bigger - and costlier - things.



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