BLAZE Review


Blaze is a fantasy drama film which mixes live action, many forms of animation and music to tell the story of twelve year old prepubescent girl Blaze (Julia Savage). One day walking home from the shops Blaze is confronted by a horrific act of sexual violence between Jake (Josh Lawson) and Hannah (Yael Stone), witnessing the entire thing Blaze has a mental breakdown from the inexplicable cruelty on display which she can not comprehend. Already an extremely imaginative child she retreats largely to a fantasy world accompanied by her pet dragon as a means to cope with the confusion of the evils of the world and the ensuing investigation into to the crime. All the while her father, Luke (Simon Baker) himself completely out of his element attempts to hold her sanity together as best he can.

This marks the debut feature film for director Del Katherine Barton and it is clearly heavily influenced by her background as a visual artist. The story was inspired upon her hearing the statistic that on average one Australian woman a week is killed by a current or former partner. A very feminist film I think her unique style brings an extremely interesting vision to this story and the harsh realities Blaze as a girl must confront on her journey to womanhood.

Much of the film is told within abstract or surrealist moments showing the inner turmoil raging in this small girl’s thoughts. Even before we were treated to heavy visual effects I though the film was a beautiful piece but the vibrant colours and exotic costumes on display within Blaze’s subconcious are jaw dropping at times. The brilliant stop motion animation provided by Jonathan Daw may have been my favourite part as I’ve always been a fan of the craft.

Accompanying the film’s impressive visual effects is an at times haunting, at times childlike wonder invoking score delivered in a collaborative effort by Sam Petty along with American singer songwriter Angel Olsen. While the film can feel a little like a music video at times their work brings the nightmare to life in an explosive way which deserves as much credit as the film’s many VFX teams.

I must say that surrealist films always strikes me as hit & miss, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Here it provided a fantastic look into the mind of the film’s protagonist and was a brilliant way of bringing such emotional moments to the big screen.

The choices of how to tell this story may not be for everyone however. While a filmgoer who enjoys the work of David Lynch for example will find much to appreciate those expecting a more traditional storytelling experience may be disappointed. What plot there is honestly could be covered in a short film and maybe achieve the same effect in a fraction of the time however personally I loved how this story was told and much of that is not only thanks to the unique visual style but also the amazing talent of actors on screen.

Without exception I found every performance in this movie pitch perfect. For a film with as creative a take as this and so much of the running time told in an symbolic manner had it not been for such stong performances anchoring the more human side the whole thing could have missed its mark.

Julia Savage in particular gives a showing far beyond her years. The decision was made to not show much of Blaze’s life before her innocence is robbed from her which I wasn’t completely on board with however Savage’s talent was on full display and ensures that we immediately identify with her character and see over the course of the film her growing and maturing as a girl who is being forced to accept horrible truths about the world she had at that point been shielded from.

While this is a film about the evils that men inflict on women as well as being about blossoming womanhood there is an amazing role in the male character of Luke. Baker shows tenderness as a not typically masculine father figure who is troubled by the shattering of his daughter’s world and his uncertainty of how exactly best to protect her.

Blaze delivers an emotional ride via a spectacular visual flair accompanied by two of the best lead performances I have seen in an Australian film this year. 

Review by Kyle McGrath