Number 25 on the list of Russell Crowe movies I have now seen is this small Australian offering from 1991, starring Hugo Weaving and Mr. Crowe, with Genevieve Picot as Celia. It had pretty good word of mouth, so I was looking forward to it, and I was not disppointed.
Proof is the story of Martin (Weaving), a blind man who is obsessed with taking photographs of the world around him as proof that it all exists, even if he can’t see it. He is an extremely bitter and suspicious individual with an almost complete inability to trust anyone. This includes his housekeeper, Celia (Picot), who fancies herself in love with him. Martin knows of her affections, and torments her, so their relationship is extremely antagonistic. Celia likes to move things around in Martin’s flat so that he bumps into furniture. Enter Andy (Crowe), a good-tempered young short-order cook. Andy and Martin strike up an unlikely friendship, and Martin eventually learns to trust someone. He has Andy briefly describe the scenes of his photographs so that he can label and identify them. Celia, jealous of Martin and Andy’s relationship, and having been rebuffed one too many times, seduces Andy in a bid to take ultimate revenge on Martin. In the end, Martin comes to terms with his difficulties with other people, and maybe learns to open himself up a little more.
This really was a fascinating film. It’s described in many places as ” dramedy” or “dark comedy,” but I didn’t really notice a lot of comedy, dark or otherwise. I found it to be just a poignant little story, excellently performed. Weaving is truly a revelation here. Even on a purely physical basis, you know he’s not really blind, but you’re totally convinced anyway. Martin’s spite and mistrust of everything and everyone are truly biting, and his few moments of happiness and softness are more striking as a result. Crowe’s Andy is sort of a lovable bloke; the kind of character that, in other hands, would be purely one-dimensional. With Crowe, however, we get a young man, not truly gifted in any particular way, who nevertheless understands and feels deeply the trust that has been placed in him by Martin. I’ll just mention one scene, toward the end of the film, where Andy realizes that he’s been had (in more ways than one) by Celia. The clue is a visual one, and as he looks around, you can truly watch the realization dawn on his face. He is handed a cup of tea, and the look in his eyes, combined with the physical anger radiating from him, as he struggles to simply put down the cup of tea as opposed to throwing it against the wall, was astonishing to me. There’s nothing happening but Crowe in the middle of the shot, and you get a world of emotions from a motion as simple as setting something down on the table. Tremendous. This is an early film for Crowe, one of his first starring roles, and his talent is blazingly clear in this one scene alone.
It’s hard to offer up any cons in particular about this film. It’s just one of those little pieces that has a reasonably simple story to tell, and it does its job very well. The central theme of trust is an interesting one, with each of the characters stuck, to a degree, in their own sense of what the concept means. Celia, despite being “in love” with Martin, is deliberately cruel to him, and doesn’t really understand what he needs from another person. Andy, despite having the greatest understanding, is also just a flawed person, prone to making his own mistakes. And Martin himself is so wrapped up in his belief of betrayal that he fails to realize that every day is about trust for him. He spends the entire film testing those closest to them, almost hoping they will fail. Meanwhile, he doesn’t realize that he could not function without his trust in people he thinks nothing of, like the waiter in a restaurant or his veterinarian. In the end, he does reach this realization, and we are left with the sense that he will move more easily through his world in the future.
I’d definitely recommend this one for anyone who likes small, character-driven films. It’s not particularly artsy – as with the few Australian films I’ve seen, it’s very simply staged and filmed, but it’s just a good piece of work, with good performances, a good script, and a good story to tell. Fans of Crowe will definitely love his performance, and receive the added bonus of Weaving’s excellent portrayal as well.