Long Weekend (Colin Eggleston, 1978)
A bickering, unpleasant suburban couple, Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets), head to a remote beach for a weekend of trampling around in nature… only to find the world they enter far more inhospitable, inscrutable… and menacing than they ever expected.
With its nightmarish tone, enigmatic imagery (such as the corpse of the dugong, a hole in its head from the bullet put there by Peter, that inexplicably seems to be dragging itself closer and closer across the sand to their camp, and the top of a car – apparently belonging to some previous unlucky, equally callous to nature, group who found themselves vacationing here – bobbing up and down with the waves off the shore, sudden nasty assaults from usually benign wildlife, branches and trees so thick they seemingly close in on the couple and their vehicle), and sense of helplessness on not knowing how to escape from it all (finding themselves, in familiar – though entirely effective, in this case – horror movie fashion, eventually trying to leave, yet finding themselves back at the same beach location they started), Long Weekend plays like a morality-tale “Twilight Zone” episode… but unlike many of those attempts, manages to sustain at feature film length, with the growing sense of eeriness and dread never failing.
The message is quite clear (we don’t own nature, nature owns us – keep messing around, and we won’t stand a chance): the imagery may not be graphically violent (though it has its moments), yet its heart is angry and forceful (even as Eggleston’s approach remains wonderfully restrained). There is no specific physical enemy against our couple – a pair who reveal again and again their cold disregard and disrespect for nature (running over an animal and barely noticing, with Peter shooting his rifle indiscriminatingly and drunkenly around the woods, discarding cigarette butts around, spraying lethal insecticide) — other than the brutal natural world closing in amongst them, with our couple growing more and more unsettled and disturbed (all with this wonderfully odd electronic score); its literal messaging carried through with weird oddness. Lost Weekend is as if a master experimental filmmaker tried his hand at something like exploitation director William Girdler’s Day of the Animals.
An argument could be made that there’s a conservative tenant rumbling around in their somewhere, as we slowly understand a big focus of the couple’s relationship strife is wrapped around her having had an abortion (implying that this is really the great ‘crime against nature’ the poster art explicitly tells us they – and she – are guilty of) but I’d argue it works appropriately on a larger scale of simply revealing further the couple as callous and deeply selfish (though I suspect many today wouldn’t be able to get beyond, like well-trained Pavlovian dogs, shifting into an outraged identity politics position – ah, well… their loss).
Lost Weekend is eerie and unsettling; a Nature Gone Amuck entry brought to us through a brilliant realized arthouse perspective (from a director whose imdb profile doesn’t reveal much particularly interesting beyond this effort).
Another great entry in this “Films for the Planet” section of the FNC. Hell, I hope they do another one next year. It’s not like the planet will be doing any better by then… even better, annually until the planet closes up shop on humanity. I mean, if we’re gonna go down, let’s at least do it watching some great cinema.