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Lantana

Essay by 24  •  December 18, 2010  •  1,976 Words (8 Pages)  •  893 Views

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"A woman disappears

Four marriages are drawn into a tangled web of

Love, deceit, sex and death.

Not all of them will survive."

Lantana tells the story of eight couples who are joined through sex, betrayal and death. The four marriages are between Leon and Sonja, Jane and Pete, Nik and Paula, and Valerie and John. The story shows the way the relationships are intertwined through these factors. Valerie is the one that connects them all although this is not obvious in the beginning and the audience identifies with Leon as the main protagonist as he seems to be the one connecting the relationships through his role as detective in Valerie's disappearance.

We first meet Leon at the beginning of his one nightstand with Jane, which becomes two nights. We then meet his wife Sonja at the Latin dancing class which she has encouraged to re-ignite passion in their marriage and this is ultimately where their marriage goes off the tracks as it is here that Leon meets Jane. Leon is the anti-hero in that is the typical Australian male; strong and unable to express his feelings. We run with Leon throughout the movie experiencing the situation mainly through his emotions or lack of, he is a man at the edge and this is evident in the way we see him beat up a suspect for being a drug dealer. This scene is the first where Leon's emotional state becomes apparent and we see that he is suffering and does not know how to express it. His state becomes more apparent when he confronts Patrick and his partner, Claudia, says; "your marriage is falling apart and so are you."

The reason the audience identifies with Leon because of his apparent connection to all of the characters. He comes into contact with all the characters at some point in the movie. He is having an affair with Jane who is separated from Pete who Leon meets in a chance encounter in a bar, he is married to Sonja who is seeing Valerie who is a psychologist married to John who is the first suspect in her disappearance. Leon passes Nik when he leaves Jane's house at the end of their affair and Nik is married to Paula and they are Jane's next door neighbours. Through this Leon appears to be the main protagonist within the movie. The real connection turns out to be Valerie as her disappearance shows the deceit within the marriages. The Lantana plant represents how entwined the relationships are without the characters realising it although with the disappearance of Valerie this becomes clear.

This is a twisted screenplay and before we learn too much about Leon the character view point changes and we meet Sonia talking to Valerie about her marriage. Once again the viewpoint changes and we learn about Valerie and the lost of her daughter, Eleanor, who was murdered eighteen months previously. We then meet John, Valerie's husband, and we see the tension between the characters. Bovell does not let us get close to any of the characters until we have meet them and experienced some of their pain and how twisted the relationships are. Lawrence's direction of the twists is shown when he introduces John and Patrick as the unknown antagonists who do not appear to have any connection to the characters already met. The placement of John and Patrick to the left and right respectively of Valerie emphasises her reaction. The fact that they seem to arrive soon after each other does not seem important until subsequently when Valerie's suspicions about Patrick having an affair with John become known and it becomes more important when Leon makes the same assumption during his investigation. However the audience are kept in the dark about the true identity of Patrick's married lover which adds to the dramatic tension of the movie.

As the story unfolds we learn more about the characters and their lives and relationships. We see the relationship between Paula and Jane is already tenuous as Paula does not trust her around Nik and this wariness is well founded when Jane reports Nik throwing the shoe into the bush to the police thereby destroying her relationship with Paula. However the main destruction of their friendship is when Jane tidies their house while they are at the police station and Paula screams across the fence at her' " you've got no right, no fucking right." The audience is given insight into the marriage of Paula and Nik as although they are the ones facing the problem of living on a single income and the investigation into Nik they are the only couple with trust between them which all the other couples lack. This is shown most clearly when Paula goes to see Nik at the police station. Nik is in all black and is unshaven compared to Paula in all white, the colours denoting good and evil. At first she is unsure about going to him but when he tells her that he didn't touch Valerie she goes to him and holds him. This unconditional acceptance makes Leon uncomfortable as it lacking from his marriage and he leaves the room.

The contrast between Nik and Leon is shown in this scene, as Sonja already doubts Leon fidelity yet Paula trusts Nik implicitly just on words. The contrast is shown again when John asks Leon what holds his marriage together, "loyalty...love...maybe habit, sometimes passion... our kids." There is no mention of trust as Leon has already lied to John about being faithful after which John confesses that he was unfaithful as his marriage was held together by grief. Bovell's emphasis on Leon's failings either endears him to the audience or makes him less of a 'hero' it is left up to the audience to interpret.

The true protagonist of the movie is also left up to the audience and whom the audience identifies with most, as the characters are worlds apart. Leon has what every person wants, a job, a family and a loving wife the perfect life, according to his partner Claudia who is single. Sonja is middle-aged but she is happy but unsure about her marriage she is beautiful and worldly but lacks passion. Valerie is a successful psychologist but because of the tragic loss of her daughter she is needy and fragile and also unsure about her marriage as is shown in her reaction to Patrick's story about his affair with a married man. Worlds apart is Paula a working mother of three struggling to support her family on her income. Nik is the stereotypical unemployed male who drinks a bit and in everyone's opinion except his wife capable of leaving the straight and narrow; he is always seen either walking the baby or fixing the car and is characterised by these actions. Bovell presents stereotypes and then sets out to disapprove through the complexities in the characters. Bovell does this to emphasise the overall thematic idea. " In

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