Analytical Essay of The Castle
The film, ‘The Castle’, directed by Rob Sitch, is an Australian satirical movie about the triumphs of an ordinary working class family. It is a comedy, and foregrounds the importance of family and loyalty, which are considered important in today’s Australian society.
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Although the audience is positioned to feel sympathy for the Kerrigan family because of their unfortunate situation, their story is told in such a comical manner that the audience can’t help but find it funny.
The story is told through the perspective of Darryl Kerrigan’s son, Dale, but so much emphasis is put on Darryl that it is clear that he is the star of the story. The film uses techniques like camera shots, language and the use of narration to develop conflict between a decent, old fashioned suburban family, the Kerrigans and seemingly evil corporation called Airlink. Feature films like ‘The Castle’ are cultural products because they use attitudes, values and stereotypes about what it means to be Australian.
In this film, an Australian family living in their beloved home, situated at the end of an airport runway, are faced with a touch challenge as the faceless company Airlink threaten to take away their house, and the houses of their neighbours. Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton), the head of the house, is outraged, and hires a pathetic lawyer, Dennis Denuto, to help defend his and his friends’ homes. After a feeble attempt in court to convince the judge that the taking of their houses was, “against the constitution”, that it was the “vibe of the thing” their case was turned down, and all hope seemed lost.
This caused great sadness within the Kerrigan home, and Darryl had fallen silent. After the Kerrigan family had completely given up, they got a knock at the door from Lawrence Hammill, QC who had met Darryl at the court house and felt empathy for his case. He told Darryl he would defend his case, free of charge, and they set their sights on High Court. This film was set in Melbourne, near the Melbourne Airport.
The fact that the Kerrigan household is located so close to the airport positions the audience to think that the house is cheap and invaluable, which is emphasized when the audience is shown the huge power lines situated almost in the Kerrigans’ backyard, as well as the “dodgy” extensions on the house Darryl has done himself. This being said, Darryl loves his house, and couldn’t bring himself
to leave it.
‘The Castle’ puts heavy emphasis on gender construction. The male roles in the movie are stereotypical. Darryl Kerrigan is a family man, which is shown when the audience sees the extensions on the house, and also when he stands up for himself and his family’s rights in court.
Darryl is typically always thinking about projects he can begin, which is very stereotypical in today’s Australian society. Dale Kerrigan likes to go fishing with his Dad, which is considered a stereotypical male activity. The males in the film generally do the work and protect for the women of the family. The females are positioned to look as if they need to be taken care of.
This film is full of stereotypes. Some of these are challenged, so as to avoid ‘The Castle’ becoming another cliché. One stereotype that is challenged is that of a wife; that she should stay at home, while her husband works.
This is challenged by Tracey Kerrigan. She has her TAFE certificate of hairdressing, and works as a full time hairdresser. Although this stereotype is challenged by Tracey, it is perpetuated by Sal Kerrigan. She is the stereotypical housewife, and stays at home doing housework, cooking, and craftwork. Another stereotype perpetuated is the typical Lebanese man, represented by Farouk, the Kerrigans’ neighbour. His stereotype consists of talk about bombs and cash being carried at all times.
This is perpetuated when Darryl and Farouk are talking about the aeroplanes flying overhead and lowering the value of their houses, and Farouk says, ‘Plane fly overhead, drop value. I don’t care. In Beirut, plane fly over, drop bomb. I like these planes’ and also when he mentions, ‘You have friend, I have friend.
My friend go to your house, put bomb under your car and blow you to sky!’ Darryl Kerrigan is seen as a stereotype from when he first appears on screen in a midshot, with a hose in his hand, wearing a flannelette shirt and jeans, and looking up at the powerlines situated behind his house.
Throughout the movie he is shown as a strong and silent type, as is the stereotypical Australian man. The whole Kerrigan family, for the most part, perpetuate the stereotype of the typical Australian Family. This is shown in their closeness, their loyalty, and their willingness to help each other.
Many people and issues are silenced and foregrounded in this film. Airlink and its opinions are silenced, so as to position the audience to view the company as faceless and evil. All the audience sees of Airlink are a few lawyers intent on taking the Kerrigans’ home away from them. In contrast, the Kerrigans opinions are heavily foregrounded.
The audience sees all their emotions and arguments as they fight for their precious house, which encourages the viewers to feel empathy. Wayne Kerrigan’s opinions are also silenced. All the audience sees of him which may influence their empathy is the medium long shot of him lying in bed looking up at the photo of his family stuck to the wall.
Class and power is shown in different ways throughout the film. Airlink’s power is shown through professional lawyers, in contrast to Dennis Denuto and his incompetence.
This contrast is shown when one of Airlink’s lawyers walks into Dennis’ office, while Dennis is struggling with a broken copying machine, swearing, on his knees. Darryl Kerrigan’s power (within his family) is demonstrated in the way that Dale Kerrigan admires him, and focuses his story so much on Darryl instead of telling the story more from his perspective.
Darryl is, as Dale says, “the backbone of the family” and this is shown as Darryl compliments his wife on her cooking each night, and encourages his family to do their best. Different class power discourses are shown throughout the film. The Kerrigans’ class discourse is shown in many ways. Speech is a main part of the discourse. While in High Court, Darryl’s outburst of “suffer in your jocks!” shows that he doesn’t know how to act in court, as higher class and more educated people would.
Again this is shown when he is in court being represented by Dennis Denuto, and yells in excitement when he thinks he’s won the case. Even in the way he speaks, his thick Australian accent, and the way he uses colloquial terms shows the audience his class. Lawrence Hammill’s class is almost immediately known, though it isn’t directly shown when he is first shown in the movie. The audience realizes that he is of higher class than Darryl, because of his language, and by the fact that he doesn’t use colloquial terms.
Throughout the film, different camera angles and shots are used to position the audience in different ways. For example, when shown Darryl’s Pool Room, close up shots of items on the walls and in cabinets (Tracy’s TAFE certificate, pictures and trophies) make it obvious to the audience what possessions Darryl treasures most.
When Darryl, Dennis and Lawrence are standing in front of the High Court, before they go inside, the camera is angled upwards, in a medium close up, from the ground. This positions the audience to believe the three look ready, powerful and prepared. Another shot that positions the audience is the long shot of Darryl is admiring the power lines behind his house. This makes the power lines look bigger, greater, and more significant.
The ideologies foregrounded in this film are those of the underdogs. If the directors were to show the ideologies and opinions of Airlink the audience may not have felt such empathy for the Kerrigans and their neighbours. The Kerrigan’s values are dominant in this film.
They value family, loyalty, and justice. This is made clear by the way that the whole family sits down together to eat dinner each night, which is becoming more uncommon in today’s society. It is also made clear by how much time they spend together, talking, telling stories, and going on family holidays.
Loyalty is shown by the way that Darryl unites with his neighbours, and cares about how they feel. An example of this is when Darryl tells them they need to get money together to pay to go to court, and how he offers to pay for Jack, because he is old and cannot afford it.
Overall, this is a funny classic for all the family to enjoy. The use of foregrounding and silencing of opinions and ideologies positions the audience to feel strong empathy for the Kerrigan family, and encourages them to be on side with the family. The movie is a triumph of human spirit.