The Year My Voice Broke

(Note: this listing contains spoilers).

The pitch on the Roadshow DVD release:

The Year My Voice Broke is set in the summer of 1962 in a remote New South Wales country town. Adopted as a baby, sixteen year-old Freya (Loene Carmen) is a constant target of cruel gossip and speculation. 

Spirited and independent, her one ally is Danny (Noah Taylor), who has been in love with her as long as he can remember.

From a distance, Danny watches helplessly as Freya falls for the town tearaway, Trevor (Ben Mendelsohn). Trevor and Freya's relationship has explosive results that change everything and trigger Danny's discovery of the town's darkest secret …

(For a detailed synopsis, with transcript of Danny's voice over and more cast details, see the bottom of this site's 'about the movie' section)

Writers:
Exec producers:
DOPs:
Production Designers:
Art Directors:
Editors:

Production Details

Production company: head credits Odyssey Distributors Ltd. presents, Kennedy Miller Presents; tail credits copyright the film to Kennedy Miller Productions Pty. Limited, A Kennedy Miller Presentation.

Budget: c. $850,000 - Kennedy Miller never disclosed its budgets, but a report in The Canberra Times, 7th October 1987 mentioned this figure, which conforms to telemovie budgets of the time - the film started as a telemovie; David Stratton in The Avocado Plantation described it as a 'modest feature film budget', which in those days might mean anywhere between $500,000 and $3 million.

Locations: the small town of Braidwood, New South Wales and the surrounding areas of the southern tablelands. The hospital scene near the end of the film was the one scene filmed elsewhere because of a lack of a suitable location - it was filmed in Sydney at the end of the shoot. See this site's 'about the film' section for more details of Braidwood locations.

Filmed: director John Duigan refers to the difficulty of a summer shoot in Australia in his DVD commentary - The Canberra Times, 7th October, 1987 says the film was shot in January 1987 during the summer school holidays. Other newspaper reports (The Bryan Times, 18th August 1988) suggest the shoot finished in February 1987. According to Duigan in his DVD commentary, it was a six week shoot. The Canberra Times refers to a five week shoot, but this might refer to the time spent in Braidwood.

Australian distributor: Hoyts

Theatrical release: 15th October 1987 at Hoyts in Sydney and Melbourne (The Age, 15th September 1988, reported it became the top rating movie of the week when it screened on the Ten network) 

Video release: First Release

Rating: M (September 1987, 2792.86m)

35mm  colour

Running time: 105 mins (Murray's Australian Film); 103 mins (New York Times)

Roadshow DVD time: 1'40"28

Box office:

For a film originally intended as a telemovie, The Year My Voice Broke did more than reasonable domestic business. After it won the top creative awards at the AFI, Hoyts got behind it and gave it a push, and according to the Film Victoria report on Australian box office, the film made $1,513,000, equivalent to $3,041,130 in A$ 2009.

Though it was a small film, it was picked up by Warner Brothers for the United States, no doubt through the Kennedy Miller Mad Max connection, and given a respectable art house release.

It did reasonable art house business, according to Screen Australia, making $213,901 at the box office, putting it in position 110 in 2014 in Screen Australia's list of films that did over US$100,000 in the United States. 

It had similar arthouse releases in the UK and various European territories, with modest business done.

Opinion

Awards

The film was the big winner at the 1987 AFI Awards:

Winner, Best Feature Film (Terry Hayes, Doug Mitchell, George Miller)

Winner, Best Achievement in Direction (John Duigan)

Winner, Best Original Screenplay (John Duigan)

Winner, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Ben Mendelsohn)

Nominated, Spectrum Films Award for Best Achievement in Editing (Neil Thumpston) (David Pulbrook won for Ground Zero)

Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading role (Noah Taylor) (Leo McKern won for Travelling North)

Nominated, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading role (Loene Carmen) (Judy Davis won for High Tide)

Advertising at the time of the film's release, and the film's trailer also mentions an AFI Award, "Members award for Excellence", but this isn't listed on the AFI site here. However, the film's publicity at the time celebrated the film as a winner of five AFI Awards.

In some databases, Noah Taylor and Loene Carmen are also listed as having won their categories - this might arise from a well-known photo of the time, featuring director Duigan, actors Mendelsohn, Carmen, Taylor and co-producer George Miller all holding AFI Awards.

John Duigan won an Awgie in 1988 for the screenplay - for film original or adaptation - shared jointly with Paul Cockburn for Afraid to Dance.

The Film Critics Circle of Australia in 1988 awarded Noah Taylor its "Best Actor - Male" award for his work in the film.

The film almost didn't make it into the AFI Awards as the result of churlish heaviour by SPAA, as outlined by David Stratton in The Avocado Plantation:

When it was completed, Year was entered in the AFI awards. This sparked a protest from the Screen Producers Association of Australia, a group of which Kennedy-Miller was not a member, on the grounds that the film was a telemovie, not a feature, and therefore ineligible. Duigan was easily able to prove that the film was shot on 35mm and designed as a feature, so the film remained in the contest ...

Happily Duigan and the film had the last laugh. Kennedy Miller might have been determinedly apart from the rest of the industry - some at the time might have been tempted to use the word 'arrogant', even if the quality of the product helped explain the arrogance - but it was childish of SPAA to attempt this kind of petulant payback.

Availability

The film took some time to jump the digital divide, but in December 2008 it was released as a 21st anniversary edition on DVD by Roadshow.

It's a pity that Roadshow abandoned its DVD catalogue because this shows the golden era of old-fashioned disc technology at its best.

The print used is good and clean, the transfer done well, and the sound impressive, being available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Stereo 2.0 - handy because the soundscape of the rural landscape and town is very important to the film.

There's also, in the Roadshow style, good subtitles and another track providing a description of the action, both helping impaired viewers to relate to the film.

There is a 2'19" introduction to the film by co-producer George Miller, and there are a number of other extras, most notably a commentary track by director John Duigan, recorded, according to him, in September 2007 in a little studio in Soho, London.

Unfortunately, the commentary isn't the best, and there are many silences, growing in length as the film progresses.

Some of Duigan's observations simply reinforce or provide an interpretation of what is already obvious on the screen, and it's a pity he wasn't provided with a foil, who could have asked questions and teased out much more on why and how he made the film, and what inspired him to do such a moving elegy for small country town life in Australia in 1962. Duigan has been noted as inclined to the taciturn, and some of his early comments read as notes scribbled for the purpose, and later he struggles when asked to extemporise on his own.

George Miller is much more informative, at least about his involvement, in his short introduction to the film.

There's also a trailer for the film, and a promotional spot for Kennedy Miller.

All this said, and minor quibbles noted, this is an essential movie, a period coming of age film which transcends the genre, and Roadshow did it proud.

For those who want a taster, the ASO has three clips here, but in the age of streaming - or for collectors of discs - it's a simple matter to get hold of a copy of the film, and watch it the way a feature film should be seen, from the beginning through the middle to the end, and in that naturalistic order.

While the film might actually work its magic best for all those who were around in the bush in small towns in 1962 - a small and declining demographic - it allows those of us who were there to say that this is a film that evokes the so and thus of what it was like. When critics write of a mythical setting, as if it was some kind of Brigadoon, they have no idea.

George Miller no doubt had a corporate interest in the film's fate, but he grew up in a remote country town in Queensland (Chinchilla, population 400), and when he said "It is the best encapsulation of life growing up in a country town that I've ever seen," he wasn't whistling Dixie, or even Waltzing Matilda.

This was a coming of age film that did for yearning daggy rural boys what My Brilliant Career did for feisty feminist girls.

It was a small film in scope and ambition and predictable in its plotting - naturally the heroine had to leave town as so many did before and after her (as the heroine left Tamworth in 3 To Go), but then Vermeer's milk maid was a small painting about a woman of uncertain social status, and yet it is a gem. George Miller in his DVD introduction calls the film a gem and so it is, at least for those who remember those awkward times. John Duigan made many other films, but arguably he never made a better one.

 

1. Source:

(a) Kennedy Miller and the film:

The Year My Voice Broke started out life as a telemovie.

Kennedy Miller had contracted to deliver four telemovies to the Ten network, and The Year My Voice Broke was included in the package. A crucial difference was that it was agreed Duigan could shoot on 35mm for the budget of a modest feature film (the other three telemovies were shot on 16mm).

George Miller in his DVD introduction explains how the film came about:

You know of all the films we made at Kennedy Miller, The Year My Voice Broke is very special to me.

We were shooting a mini-series Vietnam and John Duigan shuffled up to me one day  and very casually handed me this screenplay and he said, 'This is something I've just finished writing, take a look at it.' By the time I'd turned over the last page, I realised I'd just read a gem. Not one word needed to be changed.

I showed it to Doug Mitchell, my producing partner, and to Terry Hayes, and they both agreed, so John took this wonderful cast down into the countryside and shot this movie.

Duigan had turned to working in television after the commercial failure of his teen end of the world comedy, One Night Stand, which had prevented him being able to finance a film called Flirting, about life at a boarding school in the mid-60s (subsequently this was turned into a sequel for The Year My Voice Broke).

Duigan had initially known George Miller slightly from his time editing Mouth to Mouth in Melbourne at the same time as Miller was editing Mad Max, and Duigan's work on Vietnam (co-directed with Chris Noonan) for Kennedy Miller was received positively by viewers and critics.

(b) Working with Kennedy Miller:

There has been much speculation about the contribution that Kennedy Miller - notoriously at the time considered a Hollywood style production house that very much put their own stamp on productions - made to the script and the project, but in his DVD commentary, writer director John Duigan concludes by making clear that he had control:

"Finally a note about the producers of the film, George Miller, Doug Mitchell and Terry Hayes. The good thing for me was that all three are film-makers in their own right and they allowed me to make the film I wanted to make."

George Miller confirmed this in an interview in Cinema Papers, January 1988:

"For me, it was simply a matter of saying to John, 'Oh, yes! That's terrific,' and letting him go off with a wonderful crew to spend five or six weeks in Braidwood. What they came back with is something that I wish I'd done, and, finally, I care about it more than I do The Witches Of Eastwick. But I'm embarrassed by the suggestion that I had anything significant to do with it because I didn't … unless you count looking at rushes as significant. What I do hope, though, is that it's the kind of product that is representative of Kennedy Miller, of the sorts of things we do."

Miller confirmed this in another interview for Cinema Papers, November 1989 when talking of the company slate:

The feature films tend to be less collaborative and much more the work of the directors. The screenplay of The Year My Voice Broke was very complete when John gave it to us, so it didn't need our input. Kennedy Miller really just provided the finance, though in post-production we got involved by making the odd suggestion.

To hammer the point home - since a number of critics have attributed aspects of the film to Kennedy Miller - writer/director Duigan discussed its production in a November 1989 Cinema Papers interview:

… that was a script that didn't undergo any re-writing. The main creative input from Kennedy Miller came during the casting and the post-production. The producers were interested  in watching the screen tests and the evolution of the casting decisions.

A great strength of the Kennedy Miller producers is that they're very good in post-production. Terry and George are both extremely creative at looking at projects in their entirety during that period. They work as the best producers do, which is to keep a certain distance during the actual shoot. This enables them to come in during the latter stages of editing with a good degree of detachment. They can pick up certain weaknesses quicker than you can yourself. This was certainly the case with Vietnam and The Year My Voice Broke. And even though George was doing The Witches of Eastwick in the U.S. at the time of Voice Broke, we sent him over cassettes of the different cuts and he was able to have an input.

(c) The film's autobiographical elements:

John Duigan in his DVD commentary explained what interested him about setting the film in a country town in 1962:

"Small towns are like societies in miniature; you can see their workings more clearly than big cities and societies at large. The pressures of conformity, the main stream, the heroes, the misfits, those who are marginalised, and sometimes demonised, and the town's secrets. All small communities have collective skeletons lurking somewhere and in part this story is about one small town secret … "

There are some autobiographical elements in the story as Duigan explained to David Stratton for Stratton's 1990 survey of the 10BA years, The Avocado Plantation:

Though not exactly autobiographical, the character of Danny does express some of Duigan's own sensibilities and views of the world. 'But Danny's background is completely different form mine,' he says. 'And he has very different relationships.' Duigan spent his school holidays in a country town, and worked on his uncle's farm, so scenes like the hay-baling were taken from personal observation.

Duigan added this in his interview with Peter Malone here:

Malone: The same dimensions seem to be present in The Year My Voice Broke and Flirting - what drew you to exploring the character of Danny Embling and in that particular period?

Duigan: I suppose I use the character of Danny Embling to a degree as a sort of partial alter-ego in that I think his behaviour and the evolution of his sensibility are parallel to my own - although I often give him very different experiences. So it's not autobiographical in any strict way. I like the opportunity of being able to follow through characters that I've come to really like - characters that are played with the kind of accessibility and complexity which Noah Taylor has brought to the role. I like the idea of being able to follow through that character's journey perhaps over several more films and maybe in conjunction, sometimes, with some of the other characters that we have got to know.

Starting the series at that point of adolescence seemed right to me because adolescence is always a conjunction of the most massive degrees of change that an individual has to face. We can confront change at any time in our lives, but the freshness that we have at that time, the fact that we haven't been bruised too much or jaundiced by life's traumas, gives a particular piquancy to that particular time of life.

Duigan mentions a number of other elements personal to him in his DVD commentary. For example, Duigan confesses to having been interested in ESP from an early age 10 or 11, and "still am now":

"At boarding school we would often have seances and occasionally experiment with telepathy. The book with the green cover (seen in the film) by Ryan belonged to my parents and when I was 8, living in Malaya, I once tried unsuccessfully to hypnotise my dog. So Danny is trying to focus on this drawing of his and project the image to Freya, and they talk about it next day."

The characters share Duigan's metaphysical/mystical approach to life, as he explained to Peter Malone here:

Malone: A country town with its small population was a helpful setting to bring the character alive.

Duigan: Yes, in The Year My Voice Broke and in Flirting there are two miniature societies: one is the isolated country town with its secrets, with its bullies, with its peer group pressures, and the three principal characters are all on the edge symbolically, but they're literally on the edge because their outpost is this little beautiful curved range of hills where Loene's and Noah's characters always liked to stay. In particular, The Year My Voice Broke is dealing with a sense of their pantheistic relationship to nature and to the land. They both have it - in particular, Loene's character has an almost primal connection with the physical environment. As Noah puts it, it's almost like, to her, the rocks and the trees are living things. This is something which I believe in. This is our kinship with the land, which is something so strong in Aboriginal beliefs and in the beliefs of North American Indians.

It is something which is eroded by our immersion into society, so it's something which Danny is fighting to retain as he becomes more and more embedded in the second society that he encounters (in Flirting), which is the society of the boarding school. I think that the whole tapestry of rural life had the ability to put us in touch with nature, with the currents of the wind and the changing of the seas - it's something that's much harder to retain when one is constantly surrounded by concrete.

People have railed against this since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The followers of the notorious Captain Ludd, the Luddites, in England were doing this when they destroyed farm and factory machinery. This was a very strong primal reaction. But I think that they could see that the life of having to go and work in the dark satanic mills of the early factories in England was going to crush a part of their nature. I would like to do a film about the Luddites at some stage.

Malone: You brought in Aboriginal themes explicitly with Jonah, the Bruce Spence character, in The Year My Voice Broke.

Duigan: Yes, Bruce Spence's character, Jonah, was writing Australia's first erotic novel and living in a railway carriage, but I gave him some of the philosophical views that I ascribe to myself, and he was able to play those moments very, very well. His is also a character that I would quite like to see revisited.

On a more trivial level, in the DVD commentary Duigan notes a couple of other elements in the film that are drawn from his own experience:

  • Duigan based the coach speeches made by Harold Hopkins on the speeches made to him by coaches when he played Australian Rules football. Though the game shown in the film is true to NSW - rugby league - "The speeches are basically the same the world over";
  • Similarly, a cockatoo resident at the pub owned by Danny's parents was a tribute to a cockatoo Duigan remembered seeing at a country pub. The bird had learned to mimic the publican when he whistled his dogs up. The cockatoo would whistle the dogs and they would come tearing up, only to be completely confused, and Duigan contends the cocky knew exactly what it was doing and enjoyed it. He'd stay silent until the dogs disappeared, and then whistle them again, and they were totally bewildered by it;
  • Duigan also shared a teenage interest in Brigitte Bardot with his main character Danny (Noah Taylor).

(d) The unfinished trilogy:

John Duigan wrote the screenplay for Flirting before he wrote The Year My Voice Broke and had originally intended to make a trilogy featuring Danny Embling (Noah Taylor).

Sadly the third film the trilogy was never made but Duigan described the story arc in an interview in Cinema Papers, November 1989:

Essentially, the trilogy is about the development of a certain view of the world of a young man of that period, a philosophical and political view that tentatively takes form as he travels through the three films. And that point of view is drawn very largely from his experience as an outsider within institutions: the town in the first one, the boarding school in the second. In the third, this view is thrown into focus when he experiences at first-hand a series of political events which, it is my intention, lead up to the student revolution of Paris in May '68. that is when his still unformulated political views distil.

This view is also drawn from his individual relationships, in Flirting from his relationship with Thandiwe (Tandy Newton), the daughter of an African nationalist academic who is lecturing in Australia for a year. Through Danny's contact with her, all sorts of additional worlds open up for him.

Duigan added this regarding the link between the two films of the trilogy he succeeded in making in his interview with Peter Malone, here:

Malone: In Flirting, the next step was to genuine relationships and an intensity in first love for Danny Embling's development? You also introduced international racial overtones with the African student played by Thandie Newton.

Duigan: The relationship that developed between Noah's character and Thandie's character was the relationship that he would have liked to have had with Loene's character in The Year My Voice Broke. More than anything else, these two characters are misfits and the fact that they can find in one another mutual recognition from someone they respect is an incredibly strengthening, fortifying thing for both of them. They don't really need to have their peers acknowledging them once they have actually found each other because their very differences are valued by each other, and for anybody to encounter a relationship like that, to suddenly feel that they're not as peculiar, as odd, as separated from everyone as they've been taught to think and as they've been belittled by the pettiness of others - that's what makes the relationship so amazing for both of them.

Malone: You have been successfully subversive with the character of Danny Embling in presenting your alter-ego as an alternative to the standard ocker image of the Australian hero. Here is someone who doesn't go in for sport, who likes to read and who lives in a different kind of world, an imaginative world. It is surprising how Australian audiences responded so well to this unlikely hero - and each film won the Best Film Award from the Australian Film Institute.

Duigan: The peculiar thing about Australian culture is that one of its strongest dimensions is its anti-authoritarian nature and its celebration of the nonconformist, and yet the peer pressures that have occurred, particularly towards masculine stereotyping, have been as strong in this country as, probably, in any other country in the world. It seems a peculiar dichotomy because what the culture has celebrated is somebody without any reverence for authority, but the challenges to authority have become stereotyped in themselves. So we have the larrikin ocker. It's that kind of thumbing the nose at authority which has become institutionalised since last century. It's not a particularly interesting or wide-ranging form of rebellion or a particularly interesting type of outsider. So, yes, Noah's character is definitely presenting something which is a marked departure.

For more on Duigan and his approach to The Year My Voice Broke, see Christina Thompson's interview with him below.

2. Locations:

Duigan begins his DVD commentary by celebrating the beauty of the Braidwood location and its surrounding hills - such an important element in the story, and the place where characters Freya and Danny spend much time - a refuge for whenever they need to get away from the claustrophobia of the town - while also noting that owing to the winds and the changeable weather, a mist swept in several times while they were filming and disrupted proceedings.

Later he notes that all the locations featured in the film were in the general vicinity of the town. The one exception is a scene in a hospital which was shot at the end of the schedule in Sydney because there was no suitable location in the Braidwood area.

However, it should also be noted that the rail line never reached Braidwood and so all the railway scenes are a clever cheat.

The ghost house that was featured was in reality a derelict house in exactly the right position for Duigan's coverage and in his DVD commentary, he says it made him feel that the film was "charmed".

Keryn Curtis wrote a production report for The Canberra Times, published 7th October 1987, which goes into some detail about the locations used (see this site's photo gallery for the full story):

... The location for the film was very important in lots of ways," Duigan said. "I had a very specific idea about the town where it was set. It had to have certain key ingredients."

"Braidwood had been preserved in pretty much its original state and it had all the ingredients there - great pubs, a cafe, beautiful hills."

The script also required an old derelict house on a nearby hill. Braidwood featured a made-to-recipe house on the side of Jillamatong Hill with spectacular views over the town.

"It was perfect," says Duigan. "If I'd had to build the house somewhere it would have been exactly in that spot, just like that..."

...So perfect was the Braidwood location that few changes or renovations were necessary to create just the right look for the film. The only piece of actual construction was a small extension to the old house on Jillamatong Hill.

Most of the locations used in the film were in the main street of the town. The old cafe next to the Chinese restaurant required only a coat of paint and a sixties-style "fish" sign above the exiting one.

For the film, it became home and business for Freya Olsen (sic) and her family…

Braidwood's two hotels, the Commercial and the Royal Mail also played a big part in the film. For Danny Embling and his family, the town publicans, home was a semi-fictitious combination of the two hotels.

For the look Duigan wanted to achieve, both hotels were half right. He decided to use the ground floor and bar area of the Commercial because it was less modernised than the Royal Mail. The beautiful wrought-iron-railed upper floor of the Royal Mail became home for Danny and his family.

The Community Hall in the same street took on a new facade and resumed one of its earlier roles as the town's cinema. Braidwood's video shop, only recently renovated and modernised at the time quickly shed the new image for one closely resembling its former one…

Many of the townsfolk of Braidwood were enlisted as extras for the film. School students from Braidwood's Central and St. Bedes schools participated in many scenes, including the school dance, classroom ands swimming-hole scenes.

Most of the students were in Year 11 and all of them, now members of Actors Equity, were paid award wages for their efforts. "The Central School (where auditions and the classroom scenes were shot) received a substantial donation from Kennedy Miller for its cooperation," school headmaster John Hughes said.

It is estimated that more than $400,000 was injected into the town by the film during the five weeks Kennedy Miller was there. This figure includes money spent in renting and leasing locations and accommodation the purchase of goods required in the making of the film and general living expenses for the cast and crew.

Apart from this early example of the multiplier effect (later much abused in arguing for government assistance funding films), Curtis added a lighter note, the names cited by Loene Carmen as examples of the town's hospitality being revealing:

"They really went out of their way for us. At Torpys they had special meals and drinks named after me and Noah and Ben (Mendelson - sic) and John Duigan and everyone," she said. "Their (sic) was the 'Carmen Camembert' and the 'Duigan Deviate' drink and 'the Noah's Ark' and heaps of others."

3. Cast:

In his DVD commentary, director Duigan explains that he met Ben Mendelsohn the same day as he met Noah Taylor in a casting session in Melbourne - he calls it the best single day's casting he's ever had, to get two leads in an afternoon. It was "something of a miracle."

According to Duigan, Ben Mendelsohn already had a slightly strange laugh "and when I first heard it, I thought we would embellish it a little bit and work it into the film as an added, slightly manic element in his personality."

For Freya, Duigan says "I wanted an actress who could express the instinctively sensual earthy qualities of the character and her fierce independence and loyalty to the few people who care for her."

Duigan imagined Nils' (Graeme Blundell) parents came to Australia from Norway years ago, and so Nils and his wife gave their step-daughter a Norwegian name, with Freja the goddess of love in Norse mythology.

Duigan was able to rehearse with the three principal characters for about ten days: "It's particularly important when you're having to film quickly, as on a tight schedule like this one, because you can work out an enormous amount of detail for the characterisation and then … you and the actors know exactly what you're attempting to achieve when you arrive on each set."

It was first time in a feature film for Taylor and Carmen, while Mendelsohn had had a few roles, including a featured performance in The Still Point.

Carmen's story beguiled the American press because of its Lana Turner elements.

As she explained in The Bryan Times, 18th August 1988:

Carmen was working in a pizza parlor frequented by director John Duigan. As she tells it, she was 17 and constantly broke when Duigan asked her if he would like to make some money as an extra in his newest film (in other tellings of the tale, this was the mini-series Vietnam, which Duigan co-directed for Kennedy Miller).

"I got the time wrong and turned up late for the job and didn't get it," Carmen said. "But John remembered me and a few months later he asked me to audition for 'The Year My Voice Broke.'

"He gave me five or six screen tests and then signed me for the role…"

In other tellings of the tale, Carmen first met Duigan at the home of a school friend who had made some movies, "And he knew I was interested in drama …" In this verson, she was given the job in late November 1986 and after the four or five screen tests:

"John called me and said, 'Come on out for coffee.'"

 Carmen thought it meant she hadn't got the part.

"Actually," she said, "we just chatted away for about 15 minutes. Eventually he slipped into the conversation: 'By the way, you've got the part. So you can't party, you can't drink, you can't go out, because you've got to learn your lines.'

"I said, 'Yes. Sure. Anything.'" (Eugene Register Guard, 20th September 1988). (For more of Carmen, see the bottom of this site's photo gallery for newspaper stories about her).

So far as the adult actors are concerned, Duigan gathered together a very experienced team.

Some of them came from his old APG days - he had worked with Graeme Blundell at the theatre - and from the APG spin-off, the feature film Dimboola, which starred Bruce Spence and Tim Robertson.

Duigan was also lucky to have other very experienced actors turn up for relatively minor roles - such as Vincent Ball (who had worked in the UK and started with shows in the 1950s such as A Town Like Alice, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and Robbery Under Arms) and Nick Tate (who had appeared in the much earlier coming of age film The Devil's Playground).

New Zealand born Mary Regan (who scored the leading role in Craig Lahiff's noir thriller Fever) played the teacher reading a Judith Wright poem, while the families of the teenagers were peopled by solid character actors such as Malcolm Robertson, Judi Farr and Lynette Curran.

OTR star Queenie Ashton can be glimpsed - her ABC radio serial Blue Hills plays on the soundtrack, while Harold Hopkins (Don's Party and many other films) is another reliable presence. The minor teen roles are also done with skill, including writer-director John ("Sunday Too Far Away", "Buddies") Dingwall's son, Kelly Dingwall.

4. Production:

(a) Duigan on the making of the film:

Director John Duigan provides a number of insights into the production of the film in his DVD commentary track.

Duigan notes the beautiful light in a scene as a train passes Danny and Freja, and says they tried to avoid shooting exteriors in the harsh middle of the day, which makes the Australian summer a difficult time to shoot.

While the light was softer, it made the schedule trickier as the whole film was shot in six weeks.

The colour scheme for the film was blue, gold and brown:

"...The colours of the landscape and the sky. I sent a postcard of a van Gogh painting to Roger Ford, the production designer a few months before we began the film and said 'here are our colours'. We were so lucky because it was a hot, dry summer and stayed so for the shoot, and the day we finished it started raining. A day later the whole landscape was green."

Several of the scenes were shot day for night - for example, the sequence between Mendelsohn and Carmen at the swimming hole was filmed day for night, as was the moment when Danny retreats to the special place in the hills after the town dance, and screams at the moon.

Duigan says of working with designer Ford and DOP Geoff Burton that their three way collaboration was "one of the happiest and most fruitful of my film life."

According to Duigan, the voice over by Danny - an important element in the film - was worked on for two full days in the studio ...

(b) Production Trivia:

In his DVD commentary, director Duigan notes a number of bits of production trivia, including:

  • Stunt man Guy Norris devised Trevor's way of dealing with the school bullies using tie and hair - clearly Norris went to a state school - is matched by Duigan revealing that the sounds of the two bullies' heads hitting the side of the school building was the location sound;
  • The antique blue Mercedes featured at the race track was owned by one of the film's producers, Terry Hayes. Duigan thinks he might have been a bit worried about what might happen to it, "he certainly didn't turn to shooting the sequences that involved it." In a later scene, he notes the use of stunt drivers didn't reassure Hayes, but the car survived;
  • The insects shown swarming around the street light did it on just one night during the shoot. Duigan dragged DOP Burton out of a restaurant, and they got a camera from the truck, and shot the footage used in the film (Duigan talks of the 'cinemahtographer', while praising him for the atmospheric images Burton achieved on a tight schedule and limited budget);
  • The sheet lightning seen on the horizon during the night love making scene actually occurred the night of filming and was, Duigan says, "an unexpected bonus";
  • When the special effects people lost their way and were late in arriving, when heading to a pre-dawn shoot of a scene near the end of the film, between Freya and Danny, the mist that was wanted by director Duigan was provided by "brilliantly inventive" standby props man Colin Gibson, using some smoke flares he carried in his van;
  • The art department moved various bits and pieces of farm machinery into position around the "haunted" house, "so that we could use the silhouettes to enhance the shapes within the frame";
  • Duigan named his two town bullies Pierdon and Malseed after two powerful boys at his school, while he named the featured town pub on a whim after Lord Palmerston, a Whig minister of the 1860s (though on the sign outside, it can be seen clearly that it was the Commercial Hotel, which traded under that name up to c. 2004, when it became the Braidwood Hotel, listed here).
  • In a similar spirit, Duigan named the hotel where Jonah and his Spirit of Progress lover met in Coota the Lord Byron - the room number, 306, later turns up in the sequel, Flirting
  • Finally, channeling Duigan, Bruce Spence's Jonah is reading a Gollancz book written by Frank Scully 'Behind the Flying Saucers Where do they come from? American Air Force? Russia? "Ethoria?" Under the Earth? VENUS?'

(c) Post-production:

According to George Miller, in his DVD introduction to the film, he made only one key suggestion in relation to the cut of the film prior to its release:

When he and Neil Thumpston had edited it, they showed it to me, to see what I thought,  and I said 'John, it's perfect, there are only two things we need to change'. There was a scene in the middle of the movie in which John himself played a priest at a funeral. I said, 'John, that scene's gotta go.' He said, 'You're joking.' I said, 'No, I'm serious.'

"Is it my acting?"

 I said, "No, it interrupts the flow of the movie. It's in the third act and it interrupts the flow of the movie,' and to his credit, he pulled the scene out and we watched the movie together, and he turned around and said, 'Yeah,  absolutely right, the movie plays much more smoothly without it.'

So he was prepared to cut himself out of his own movie.

It's easy enough to spot the likely place where the movie was cut, as it was probably a funeral service for Queenie Ashton's briefly glimpsed character, who dies off screen in the film.

In the DVD release of the film, Ashton's character is dead, and her possessions are being packed up, and the crucial, plot-important locket being given to Freya, starting around the 31'42" minute mark. Presumably Duigan decided to extract more juice from Ashton's character by burying her in the third act.

5. Release:

In his DVD introduction, co-producer George Miller is keen to credit John Duigan and his team as the creative force behind the film:

There is something about the way John wrote this film and the way he shot it and got that wonderful performance from that young cast, and the way he and Geoff Burton captured the landscape that seemed so effortless to me. It went on to win a number of AFI Awards, including Best Picture. It makes me very proud to have been part of it, and I watched the movie over and over again and I always get so much out of it. Thanks J... (he means to say John, but is cut off mid-phrase on the disc used by this site).

However there was an attempt to prevent the film being entered in the AFI Awards by the Screen Producers Association of Australia.

SPAA was irritated by Kennedy Millers determination to row its own boat, as noted in the January 1988 edition of Cinema Papers:

(George) ... Miller is disappointed by what he sees as an unnecessary controversy, even if the storm never really got out of the teacup. "It's true that we approved John's screenplay as part of a package of four films that we're doing as part of a package of four films what we're doing as a 'Festival of Australian Films' for the 10 Network for the Bicentenary (the other three films were Clean Machine, written and directed by Ken Cameron, The Riddle of the Stinson, written by Tony Morphett, directed by Chris Noonan, and The Damien Parer story, written and directed by John Duigan).

But, from the outset it also recommended itself very much as a feature film. We decided to shoot it 35mm rather than 16mm and came to an arrangement with equity and the actors that, if it worked out, it would get theatrical distribution."

If SPAA had succeeded, it might have had a significant impact on the film's theatrical release, as the five AFI Awards the film won played a big part in Hoyts' domestic campaign for the film.

Happily, the SPAA push didn't get off the ground, and the film did more than average business for such a low budget outing.

According to the Film Victoria report on Australian box office, the film made $1,513,000, equivalent to $3,041,130 in A$ 2009.

Though it was a small film, it was picked up by Warner Brothers for the United States, no doubt through the Kennedy Miller Mad Max connection, and given a respectable art house release. It did reasonable art house business, according to Screen Australia, making $213,901 at the box office, putting it in position 110 in 2014 in Screen Australia's list of films that did over US$100,000 in the United States.

It had similar arthouse releases in the UK and various European territories and did similar art house business.

6. Title:

The title for the film went through several changes, with Duigan noting one choice in his DVD commentary:

"For awhile I thought about calling the film 'The Museum of Desire' but I'm glad I changed my mind" (Noah Taylor's character talks about 'the museum of desire' while taking a copy of the novel Peyton Place to his bed for masturbatory purposes).

Co-producer George Miller recounts in his DVD introduction two problems he had with the film.

The first, noted above, was the scene in which Duigan played a priest. The second?

I said, 'John, it's the title.'

At the time, it was called 'Reflections of a Golden Childhood,' and my feeling was that something already so poetic and somehow capturing this rite of passage in the Australian landscape didn't need a title as fancy as that. 

So John, once again to his credit, made a list of a hundred titles, and in amongst them were the words "The Year My Voice Broke". I said, 'John, that's the title,' and thank God he agreed.

7. References:

Apart from the pop music (see this site's pdf of music credits for a full list), the film references as number of other elements, including the radio.

As Duigan notes in his DVD commentary, TV was slow to arrive in certain parts of rural Australia, even by 1962 (there's a scene showing townspeople crowding to watch a set in a shop window, a scene replicated all over Australia) and the emphasis for entertainment was on radio and the cinema.

Radio is represented by the ABC's long running rural daytime soap Blue Hills. Director Duigan notes it was listened to religiously in the country, "including farming relatives of mine", while a Hector Crawford radio show, No Holiday for Halliday is also featured several times.

The cinema is referenced by any number of posters outside the town movie house and on Danny's (Noah Taylor) bedroom walls.

The film also includes a mock-up of an American surfing movie, as a homage to the surf films and pop songs popular at the time.

As noted by Duigan, once TV arrived, much of this small town cinema culture disappeared, with many rural 'flea palaces' immediately closing:

"Shame, I loved these sorts of places. In England as a boy I would pay threepence for the Saturday morning matinees and be scared witless by films like The Forbidden Planet, and at Danny's age, I always thought Brigette Bardot was gorgeous."

The poem being read by the teacher (Mary Regan) in the classroom was by Australian poet Judith Wright, whom Duigan studied in school (the first portion that appears in the film is highlighted in bold):

Train Journey

Glassed with cold sleep and dazzled by the moon,


out of the confused hammering dark of the train


I looked and saw under the moon's cold sheet


your delicate dry breasts, country that built my heart;


and the small trees on their uncoloured slope


like poetry moved, articulate and sharp


and purposeful under the great dry flight of air,


under the crosswise currents of wind and star.

Clench down your strength, box-tree and ironbark.


Break with your violent root the virgin rock.


Draw from the flying dark its breath of dew


till the unliving come to life in you.


Be over the blind rock a skin of sense,


under the barren height a slender dance...


I woke and saw the dark small trees that burn


suddenly into flowers more lovely that the white moon. 

ADB has yet to catch up with Judith Wright, though she is a major Australian poet - her father is listed here - but there is a good short listing of the poet here, with links, and a detailed wiki for the poet wiki here

Finally, on a more trivial level, Duigan chose the horse Aquanita for Judi Farr's character because it came third in the Melbourne cup, behind Even Stevens, in the year the film was set (1962), "so she would have had a good day" (the horse is listed at the racing hall of fame here). 

8. Music:

The film is notable for not using a conventional underscore, but instead relying on pop songs from the period to provide a kind of commentary and counterpoint to the screen action.

Ralph Vaughan Williams' lyrical The Lark Ascending is also used at a number of points, in place of underscore, as the musical theme underlining the key pastoral and emotional moments in the film, including over the head and tail credits. 

The soundscape - use of wind and other rustic sounds - also played a big - Percy Grainger would say musical - role in the soundtrack. In his DVD commentary, director Duigan notes that the wind was created by mixing together seven or eight tracks of different winds.

There are also a few live music moments - for example, Noah Taylor's character sings, without accompaniment, some of the lyrics for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which had previously played on the soundtrack in its pop single form.

Several other uncredited pieces of music appear on the sound track, including the theme for the ABC's Blue Hills radio serial, Pastorale, written by Ronald Hanmer and available to listen to at the ASO here (originally part of the Francis, Day & Hunter music library), and a medley on Queenie Ashton's character's player piano, which breaks into Bicycle built for two, aka Daisy Bell, a song written in 1892 by Harry Dacre (wiki here). 

There's also a little library music heard as the Olson family eat and listen to the Hector Crawford radio drama, No Holiday for Halliday.

All the songs listed in the credits are true to period, with the exception of Lesley Gore's That's the Way Boys Are, which was released as a single in 1964 (the film is set in 1962).

In relation to his use of music, director John Duigan made some comments in his DVD commentary.

In relation to Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending

"I've always loved this piece and it seems perfectly to complement the landscapes here and express something of the yearning  and sometimes melancholy feelings of Danny and Freya."

(Duigan used other pieces by Vaughan Williams on his subsequent films, including Flirting and Sirens).

On the pop music: 

"I use a lot of popular songs from the times in this film. In these days most people listen to music on iPods through headphones, but then we all carried little transistor radios, so the music was much more present. On The Year My Voice Broke we were very lucky to get the rights to so many good songs. Within a year or two the record companies put the prices up tenfold and a low budget film like this wouldn't have been able to have afforded them."

On the use of pop song Tower of Strength:

Duigan says he chose the song Tower of Strength during the country dance, because at the climax of the scene, when Freya leaves with Trevor Leishman, "the emotion and drollness in the singer Gene McDaniel's voice and the lyrics and music are a nice ironic counterpoint to how agonised Danny feels at this moment."

For more details about the music, see this site's pdf of music credits.

9. John Duigan on The Year My Voice Broke:

Christina Thompson discussed the movie with John Duigan for Cinema Papers, January 1988.

Duigan opened by deploring a trend in American movies of the The Last Movie, Blue Velvet, River's Edge kind, saying that he thought the amorality of the portrait of adolescence in that last film was more akin to immorality, citing some very unpleasant aspects to the film (the camera returning to linger over the body of the dead girl), and saying it suggested to him "an extremely cynical and almost despairing view of the world…"

Thompson characterised this gritty, post-apocalyptic, frankly decadent, distinctively American way of thinking as a kind of plain ugly form of American neo-gothic, at least as far as Duigan's talk abut their "almost amoral stance" (she concluded by positioning Duigan outside the neo-gothic camp).

Duigan then went on to discuss his own work with Thompson, who also provided her own views on his traditionalist and romantic style in The Year My Voice Broke:

...Before he became a filmmaker, John Duigan did a Master's degree in philosophy at Melbourne University. Not particularly interested in the philosophy department's strong suit, logical positivism, he altered the design of the course to meet his own interests in continental philosophy and, above all, ethics. His preoccupation with the latter is, he concedes, evident in his films.

In a 1978 interview Duigan said of Mouth To Mouth, "I certainly hope people will perceive the optimism which is crucial to the film. I wanted to generate a lot of warmth between the characters." He was trying, he said, "to involve a fairly wide-ranging audience in the experience of four sympathetic characters." Nine years, five movies and a miniseries later, these worlds describe quite accurately what Duigan is up to in The Year My Voice Broke.

Fourteen-year-old Danny (Noah Taylor) is in love with 15-year-old Freya (Loene Carmen). But Freya is in love with 16-year old Trevor (Ben Mendelsohn - sic, these ages are out by a year, Danny is 15, Freya 16 and Trevor 17). Danny and Freya have been friends since childhood and she, sympathetic to the hopelessness of his infatuation, tries to knock him back gently. Trevor, for his part, has a hero's natural inclination to defend the underdog and, despite the tough-guy facade, he's not incapable of sympathy for the competition.

Like the plot, the "relationship dynamic" is archetypal. "On the one hand you've got the character of Danny who's this natural observer of the world, who exists on the fringe, who is ostracised at school because he's different. He likes poetry, he speculates about hypnotism and telepathy, and all these sorts of things, but he's a very cerebral character," explains Duigan.

"And on the other extreme there's Trevor who's a much more dynamic, spontaneous, wild character who hurls himself around and doesn't think about what he's doing particularly or analyse it at all." Freya, he concludes, is "somewhere between the two, finding both men interesting  for completely different reasons, her own personality having certain similarities to both and something else again."

The story, set in the early sixties, has all the ingredients of a classic teenage tragedy: adolescent dreams squelched by authority in the form of parents and police, all against the backdrop of a nervy, narrow-minded country town. I asked Duigan if he didn't think The Year My Voice Broke had noticeable affinities with a whole slew of American films from East of Eden and Rebel Without A Cause to The Last Picture Show."

"I wasn't consciously aware of operating in an American style or genre because I've always felt that my films were closer to European styles of film than American. And in terms of the pacing of a film like this, and in is more gentle emotionality, it seems to me to be dissimilar to American films that probably have a more strident edge to them."

Duigan hasn't got much time for films that are either 'strident' in tone or 'cynical' in motivation. He does not believe in poking fun at his audience, nor in subjecting them to an all-out assault on their basic humanist values, however tarnished those values may be. Because the fact of the matter is that those are values Duigan shares, that his ethics are those of a liberal humanist.

In many ways, Duigan is a traditionalist; Good and Bad in The Year My Voice Broke fall out in familiar camps. On the one hand there is honesty, charity, strength of character, and on the other, vanity, egotism, meanness or weakness of spirit. The Good is associated with individuality, the Bad with the nastiness of the pack.

To highlight the opposition, each of the Individuals is cast as the Outsider. Danny's idiosyncracies (sic), Trevor's rebelliousness, and Freya's dubious parentage and unseemly behaviour, place each of them beyond the pale. Alienation as an experience figures as centrally for Duigan as it does for, say, David Lynch, but it is something you suffer, not something you inflict.

Duigan says he wanted to examine how people who have not been assimilated into society perceive the world. "Because I think that they perceive both the society of which they are on the fringes, and also the world in general quite differently. I think there is a sense in which the characters that Noah and Loene play have preserved elements of their childhood longer than most people do. That gives them a sort of breadth and, in a curious way, sophistication or complexity in the way that they perceive things that people whose heads are filled with the multivarious aspects of our culture lose.

"Like, I think there are sections of our heads that go to sleep as we become obsessed with the manufactured elements of reality, so for them, they have what could be described as an almost mystical relationship with their world, in particular with the land, the hill, and the haunted house, and so forth. And this aspect was a very strong starting off-point for me, that area of their reality is to me very real."

I think it would be far from unfair to describe Duigan as a romantic, though not perhaps, in the field of Australian filmmaking, quite so incorrigible a romantic as Peter Weir. From some points of view, however, romanticism is utterly inappropriate to the world in which we live. This surely is the perception of some independent American filmmakers who may be driven to de-romanticise and ironise their movies by Hollywood's increasingly hysterical and wildly romantic myth-making.

Romanticism is characterised by a preoccupation with interiority as opposed to social and physical reality, by nostalgia and a tendency to focus behind, ahead or over the horizon, anywhere but here and now in the material world. Certainly The Year My Voice Broke fits the bill. Narrated in the past tense by a grown-up Danny, it has strong elements of the other worldly.

One of the finest minor characters is a fringe-dwelling mystic weirdo who lives in a shack by the railroad line. Jonah (Bruce Spence) functions as a kind of spiritual advisor to the troubled kids, telling them strange truths about the way in which rooms record the events which happened in them, about how shadows or echoes of human emotions are imprinted on the physical world forever, and about how, if you are sensitive, you can feel those imprints of the past. "The points of view that are expressed by Jonath," says Duigan, "seem probably quite eccentric. I, in fact, share many of them."

There's been a lot of talk about a tendency in recent Australian film to locate the subject away from hard core contemporary realities. Ground Zero, the stiffest competition of this year's Best Film, has been appreciated particularly for its head-on confrontation with a topical issue. In America, of course, few enough people would even consider this kind of criticism because rarely in America are films made that have what you might call a 'social conscience'. One exception might be, ironically, River's Edge, the film Duigan feels fails to live up to its promises in this regard.

But moral accountability is something Australian artists and critics seem quite comfortable with and Duigan is no exception. Those "four sympathetic characters" in Mouth To Mouth, for instance, were in Duigan's words, "characters whom the middle-class audience generally reads  about as numbers in the unemployment figures, or kids in the juvenile courts."

The Year My Voice Broke is, comparatively, rather light on social commentary, possibly as a function of its spatial and temporal setting. I asked Duigan how he might feel about the charge that his film was nostalgic and therefore critical only about social realities that were safely distanced from most people's experience of life.

"To me the temporal setting of the picture is largely irrelevant. I wanted to make a film that had the first-person character looking back and trying to make sense of a very important formative relationship. I simply chose that period because it was the period I grew up in so I knew it well and was able to observe the correct kind of language and I knew the music of the time and so forth.

"But really, as far as I'm concerned most of what its about is translateable (sic) to now or any recent time. And I don't think the sociological idiosyncracies (sic) that are described in the society are now absent at all. So, if people are critical of the film on that level, to my mind they have completely missed what the film is about."

As for the choice of a country setting, Duigan says, "I've made a number of films about urban subjects and the Australian rural reality is just as valid a part of the Australian experience. But also, again, I don't particularly think that what goes on in the story is especially a rural situation. It's a lot easier to identify some of the patterns because it's a society in miniature. But it has a lot in common with urban realities as well."

Duigan would, in the end, have it both ways. On the one hand a retreat from the material, sociological, historical and economic world into a magic world of lingering childhood and mystical adolescent fantasy. And on the other, an acknowledgment that the desire for such a retreat (and the glamour associated with it) is a product of the very social realities it denies. In this sense, The Year My Voice Broke is very much a movie about adolescence, perched rather precariously not only between youth and maturity, but between the romantic and realistic ideologies which are associated with those different stages.

Duigan was so singularly unimpressed with the nostalgia question, however, that it prompted me to ask what he thought about Australian film criticism in general. I had overheard him the night before in conversation with a couple of journalists articulating the position that, all in all, it was a pretty shallow business.

"I think that one of the things the film industry suffers from is that it's fashionable among intellectual circles in Australia to be blindly uncritical of Australian films and generally lump them all together and write them off. I certainly think that there are very few writers who give the same kind of attention or diligence in their analysis of Australian films that they would give to films by people with esoteric-sounding names from Germany or France," he says.

John Duigan is a very serious fellow. Hopeless romantic that I am, I have great sympathy for the vision which gave us The Year My Voice Broke. But I confess to surprise at his high-minded and rather puritanical response to what seems to me one of the most interesting recent developments in film.

I am reminded, however, of a similar debate between Emile Zola and Anatole France. Zola, the father of Naturalism, was felt by many of his contemporaries to have an 'obscene' mind. He chose to portray only the sordid aspects of life; he wallowed, they said, in filth. When La Terre was published in 1887 France responded with the following review:

There is in all of us, in the humble as well as the great, an instinct for beauty … M. Zola does not realise this… In this world there are some magnificent forms and noble thoughts, as well as pure souls and heroic hearts, but M. Zola does not realise this … He does not seem to know that it is the decent things in life which grace it, nor that philosophical irony can be both indulgent and gentle As for common decency. it can inspire only one of two things in humanity: admiration or pity. M. Zola is worthy of our profound pity.

Duigan's position on the neo-gothic is not without precedent. May the debate rage ever on.

There is a further irony here.

Some viewers will be aware that the film later developed a cult following amongst hypno-fetishists for its showing of Danny's hypnotic attempt to seduce Freya, and his masturbatory fantasies - involving panties-stealing and voyeurism - sit well with the internet age.

Though Duigan uses these antics for humour - the blind is shut in the voyeur's face; the thief is almost caught out with the panties, while using the novel Peyton Place as an aide to masturbation; the hypnosis turns into mortifying failure and Freya's playful tease - youthful sexuality runs through the film, with wrestling, water hole horse play, urinating in the fields and a toilet dunking to add to the earthy air.

Even the film's metaphysical voice - Jonah channeling Duigan - is attempting to write the great Australian erotic novel, and Jonah's chief memory of a hotel room in Coota is the satisfying orgasmic screams still hanging in the air and clinging to its walls.

There was perhaps a little more of Zola, and a light kind of neo-gothic in Duigan than either he or Thompson was prepared to acknowledge back in 1988, and this thread would continue in the sequel, Flirting. (Film reviewer Neil Jillett even called the second half of the film a "gothic melodrama: - see this site's collection of reviews for details).

10. Detailed Synopsis, with music used, and all Danny's voice over narration in bold:

Images of the southern tablelands of NSW to the sounds of Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending, as a title tells us its 1962 …

Danny's (Noah Taylor) voice over begins as we see Freya (Loene Carmen) amongst rocks on a hill: 

It was our secret place when we were five and six. Willy Hill, she used to call it. You could crouch down, shelter under the overhanging rock if it rained. We kept a blanket there, and sometimes had feasts of chocolates and lollies. But she'd still go there, even when she was 16. It was still her special place. When night was falling, it was like … you were on a ship and the hill sailed on through the night, with the land and the sky lapping past. Every tree and rock, to her, was almost like they were living things. 

We'd always been close. Always been really sweet and gentle with each other …

Freya immediately hard tackles Danny - who has been walking over the hills with a double-barrelled shotgun - to the ground and they wrestle.

Freya tells Danny no more shooting and to stop pressing up against her - she can feel him - and then puts Danny in an arm lock, saying no more shooting. Under duress, he promises …

God, you're juvenile, he says, about her jumping on him like that, and she retorts that he's so mature for his age.

A Delltones' song accompanies images of the pair walking across the hills to the town in the distance.

They race into the Royal Cafe and start playing table soccer and Freya's step-father Nils Olson (Graeme Blundell) chivvies her about doing homework.

He heads off to the pub, while Anne Olson (Lynette Curran) mops the cafe floor, and Freya's step sister Gail Olson (Anja Coleby) explains things are tense because the highway by-pass means that they're going to go broke.

Anne tells the two kids to shut up their bickering over the feeding of gran.

Freya heads out the back to spoon feed an ailing gran Olson (Colleeen Clifford).

Meanwhile, Danny's walked over to the town cinema, asking the owner if there's any chance of getting Forbidden Planet again. When the owner points out he's seen it three times, Danny says it's got a lot to it.

Last time he was the only one in the audience, says the owner, as he puts up a poster for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

There's no other space stuff on the list, and no Brigitte Bardot that he'd be allowed in to see.

As the owner departs, two bullies, blonde Pierdon (Robert Carlton) and Malseed (Matthew Ross) round the corner and torment Danny about his gun and being mistaken for a bandicoot and being shot.

"Please God, let something terrible happen to Pierdon and Malseed," prays Danny. "I don't know what, maybe a disease, like leprosy. Maybe they could be taken away by flying saucers for experimentation …", as he souvenirs the poster for "Teenage Runaway."

Danny's voice over resumes as he walks up to a pub: The Lord Palmerston was the best hotel in town. Well, it was the only hotel in town. My parents ran it and we lived upstairs. The cockatoo lived out the back near the gents toilets, which gave him a pretty … interesting repertoire. (The bird makes a retching sound - "You hung over too, are ya?" asks Danny).

As Danny collects beer glasses, the camera comes across Nils talking with Bob Leishman (Tim Robertson) and school football coach Tom Alcock (Harold Hopkins) discussing his brother in law's horses, which tend to break down.

To the sounds of pop song Corinna, Danny is in his room conducting a thought experiment with Freya, trying to transmit an image of a star across the ether to her. In the cafe, she's drawing a picture of a yellow sun.

Next day they watch a train move past as Danny's voice over resumes:

"I first heard about mental telepathy from this bloke Jonah who who worked on the railways. And the best thing about it was Freya being interested too, 'cause whatever she was interested in, I was."

They compare the two drawings, and Danny's excited because he reckons the sun is pretty close to a star. "Actually it is a star."

"Suppose, I can't tell what I'm picking up telepathically and what's just my own mind. Or your mind."

She wonders if he was thinking dirty thoughts as they head across to a railway carriage where Jonah lives.

Danny (v/o): Funny thing about Jonah … he won the pub raffle every year, so he had this endless supply of whiskey which Freya loved, and I was trying to like it, at least a little bit myself.   

Danny knocks down a glass as the pop song Diana plays in the background.

Jonah (Bruce Spence) announces he's finished chapter twelve of his novel. Freya points out he's been working on it since last year, and Jonah notes he's had a lot of distractions, trains mainly: "Never get a job with clocks, you can hear your life ticking away."

Freya looks out of the carriage at a nearby haunted house on a hill, and asks Danny if he's ever been there.

She says he's chicken, and he challenges her to go in there at night for ten quid.

On the way back to the cafe, they sing Corinna together and Danny tells Freya he's got a book on hypnotism and needs someone to try it out on.

"What, me be your victim?" she asks, and he says "Yeah!" and drops his bike to give her a kiss.

Danny's outside Freya's window, peering in as she undresses for bed.

Danny: Please God, I'm sorry for this. I promise I'll give it up by my next birthday if you help her not to telepathically pick up that I'm out here… Please God, help her not to draw the curtains."

Freya draws the blind…

Danny: "Ah, I meant the blinds as well."

He heads over to the clothes line and removes a pair of panties.

Danny heads back to his bedroom above the pub, gets a photo of Freya from his battered copy of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, pulls Freya's panties from beneath his pillow, and holds both of them to his head …

Danny (v/o): I was so stuck on Frey. I couldn't think of anything else. I used to try sending her thought messages about what a fascinating and desirable person I was. I'd send them so hard that I'd have to stop in case I short-circuited my brain and became a moron. 

Vaughan Williams' music recurs over pastoral images of hay harvesting.

Danny (v/o): Every year we used to earn pocket money helping with the hay baling at some of the nearby properties. That's when Freya got to know Trevor Leishman for the first time. He was the full-back in the school football team. Pretty big deal. Everyone around town knew him because he was wild… (Freya hands Trevor - Ben Mendelsohn - a bale of hay)…always getting into trouble at school, or with the police. People said he was hyperactive, whatever that meant.

At a drinks break, Trevor gets into the warm Toohey's Flag Ale and so does Freya. When Tom asks her if her father allows her to drink, Freya says he's her step-father.

Trevor says a couple of mouthfuls won't hurt here, and Tommo says they all know where Trevor gets his drinking experience from.

Freya knocks off the bottle, and her step-sister tells her to stop showing off.

Trevor and Danny take a piss in a field, and, he inscribes his urine in the dirt - "I can always get me first name. The way you know when you're really drunk is when you can get your second one as well …  that's what my old man taught me … Longest I ever got was me whole name plus three letters. But I was bustin'. I'd been saving it up all day."

Then he looks over at Freya and as Freya also takes a piss, notes she's changed in the past couple of years, and isn't a bad sort now.

Danny says Freya's sort of, not really, his girlfriend. Trevor gives her a wolf whistle. Piss off, Freya shouts back at him. Trevor gives a galoot sort of laugh.

Danny is carrying his bike over a weir.

Danny (v/o): A couple of miles out of town was the swimming hole where a lot of the mating rituals took place. That's what people who study tribes would call them, I think. Pretty juvenile sort of stuff. 

Danny arrives at the swimming hole as the boys are singing a well-known Australian drinking song, "He's a pisspot through and through … he went to drink it down and it went the other way, drink it down, down etc"

Danny watches as Freya strips down to her bikini cossie and the boys begin dunking kids in the water.

They target Freya, and race after her, then once they've caught her, drag her into the water, and dunk her. 

Trevor wrestles with Freya and laughing in his strange way, begins holding her head under water for an amount of time that alarms the others. She stops struggling and when he eventually lets her go, he leaves her spluttering and trying to catch her breath.

She says she's okay and when they head to Mrs Mary O'Neil's (Queenie Ashton) place in the bush, when Danny says the Leishman kids are juvenile, Freya doesn't think they are.

As the player piano tinkles Daisy, the pair look at the photo of a World War I soldier, and Mary says she liked her young man better out of uniform than in.

At school, Malseed reads out in a mocking way a romantic poem written by Danny - "the wind on the hills is in your hair, the smell of the rain perfumes the air" - while Danny in the toilet sees some graffiti about Leishman and Freya.

Peirdon arrives and when Danny tries to challenge Malseed, Peirdon puts him in a headlock and drags him back to the toilets, dunking his head in a girl's dunny and flushing.

Trevor arrives and grabs the pair and slams their heads into the dunny wall outside, saying the heads sounded hollow and giving his manic laugh.

Freya goes inside to check if Danny's alright, and when he doesn't reply, she stands guard at the door, turning girls away, spitting on them, with one redheaded girl saying that's what she learns from her alchy step-father.

Tom's organised a meal at the swimming hole for the school rugby league team, and after a little speech about beating their rivals, says they can start stuffing themselves.

As Danny watches, Trevor comes over to have a cigarette with Freya. He'll steal the Osmond's car again, and take her to the racecourse and they'll break the record - he did 96 around it last time he tried - until he got caught by Sgt Pierce, she says.

What else will they do, she asks with a smirk, and he smirks back that that's for her to find out, if she's game.

The pair rock around the racecourse in the stolen car as a pop song plays on the radio, That's the Way Boys Are, and Trevor laughs goofily.

Danny (v/o): It was hard to feel really down on Trevor Leishman, seeing how he'd saved me in the girls' toilets just that day …

(then as the car stops, and Trevor and Freya share a cigarette) …

Please, God, don't let him kiss her, for God's sake …

He sighs and flinches as they kiss …

Day, and Danny is back at the special place in the rocks he shares with Freya, with her panties, thinking he has to be more outgoing and more of a personality to get her interested.

Maybe funny, entertaining, tell jokes, as Freya interrupts and asks if he's talking to himself.

"People who talk to themselves grow hairs on the palms of their hands."

Danny asks her if she loves him, and Freya suggests Danny asks her sister so that he can come to the movies with them on Saturday. Danny indignantly notes she was in third form, and Freya points out it's the same difference between her and Trev.

Danny says they don't talk as much and Freya says it's because they move in different circles and gets him to sing the song heard earlier, Get a Little Dirt on Your Hands.

When Danny asks her why she likes the special spot:

Freya: "It's Willy Hill. My special place." 

Danny (v/o): Dogs can tell when people pass away. Maybe they pick up the soul leaving the body and flying off into space or wherever they go. This time, it was old Mrs O'Neil. It was really nice. Dropped off in her sleep.

At the footy Trevor makes a good tackle, but Tom Alcock tells Johnno (Kelly Dingwall) that he tackles like a girl and some of the ladies could make a better fist of it.

Then Tom praises Trevor for putting in the G & D, and that's what he wants to see more of, as Trevor and Freya share an orange and flirt, and Danny plucks up the courage to ask Gail to come to the pictures.

Gail asks Sal what's on at the flea palace, and she says it's a romance set in Hawaii and says she'll come too, and Danny walks away muttering about stupid stuck up little third formers. He'll meet them there.

Danny (v/o): "The only reason I wanted to go was so I could check up on what happened between Freya and Trev."

As the surf movie plays out, Danny watches Trev feel up Freya, and when Gail puts a move on him, he's so startled he drops his jaffas.

After the movie outside the cafe, Frank Ifield croons I Remember You as Gail tells Danny the movie was dumb, and Trevor and Freya kiss.

Gail says she might as well go, and Danny plants a very awkward kiss on her lips as Sal giggles.

A drunken Nils Olson arrives to catch the pair snogging, and as he shouts about not seeing her again, Anne Olson emerges to tell Nils to shut up and drag him inside.

At Jonah's carriage, Danny is watching and drinking as Jonah switches points.

Danny asks Jonah if he's ever been in love and Jonah mentions a time in Cootamundrah, with a woman who worked in the 'Spirit of Progress' catering car. Crews would change over at Coota and stay in the Lord Byron hotel.

Freya arrives, pours herself a drink, and says she might sleep at the ghost house that night to win Danny's ten quid.

After some banter about Danny and Freya's love life, Jonah says it was the Amerys that used to live in the abandoned house, and that he doesn't believe in ghosts, not as such:

"The way I see it, when you're scared, your brain gives off all this fear and it hangs in the air and sticks to the walls. Like this. ARRRRGH! (he shouts, startling them). Did you feel it? Did you feel it shooting out? That moment's hanging in the air now, like … like a force-field. That's what's in that place. That's what the dogs pick up."

Danny realises that means something terrible must have happened there, and Jonah tells them where there's another force field:

"In a little hotel room in Coota. The one I used to share with my lady friend from the 'Spirit of Progress' … be a happy one though. Room 306, Lord Byron Hotel. Green bedspread, little gas fire, picture of the Blue Mountains on the wall, and one of those soft mattresses. You both sink in together in the middle. Now, that'd be the place to take your girlfriend …

Later walking in the main street, Danny asks what she thinks and she agrees with Jonah, there's good and bad places.

Willy Hill, and then she challenges him to walk in a straight line and to learn to kiss properly - Gail said he was slobbering all over her.

Do it gently next time, she tells him, and don't stick your tongue down someone's throat on the first night.

Danny looks up at the moths fluttering around the street light, while Freya says everyone's asleep, the whole town's dreaming.

"Dad'd be dreaming he's pulling beers," jokes Danny. "Nils'd be dreaming he's locked in the brewery for the night," jokes Freya. "old Mrs Osmond would be dancing around with the Duke of Edinburgh," says Danny. "I wonder if Mrs O'Neil's around,' says Freya, looking up into the air.

"Her ghost? … Or her force-field," says Danny.

"They're all here, the whole town," says Freya, as she looks at the moon. Danny says he can feel them too.

Bells ring, as the locals gather in the pub to give Nils another hard time about the horses, then talk turns to Freya and Trevor and then Sgt Pierce (Nick Tate) arrives, to tell Bob Leishman (Tim Robertson) that his bloody son's gone and pinched Mrs Osmond's Mercedes again, and is trying to set up a lap record round the racetrack.

Jesus, not again, says Bob, as everyone laughs and we cut to Trevor fanging around the track, while The Shadows' guitar-laden Apache plays on the soundtrack, and the Sergeant tells Bob there's not going to be a next time for this sort of behaviour.

Danny turns up to tell Freya what's happening, and they head to the haunted house.

Dusk and Trevor runs out of gas, and he begins to run and the coppers chase, but he evades them and heads to the haunted house, scaring Freya and Danny and laughing manically at the joke.

He immediately kisses Freya, and as the wind whines, they head inside.

Trevor scares Freya with a dead rat and wants to get rid of "Bandy", but Danny wants to find out more about the haunted house, and he gets some wood for the fire.

Trevor starts kissing Freya in earnest, and Danny raps the door with firewood to stop them. "It's gunna be a bloody ripper fire, mate," says Trev.

Danny bunks down and watches as Trev and Freya lie together on a mattress, and then make love.

Freya reckons if he keeps on she'll make a noise and then what about Danny, but Trev reckons if he was Danny he'd leave them alone and give them a fair go.

Trev says it feels better if it's done inside, and there's a time lapse, with the fire now low and everyone asleep, and suddenly Danny wakes to a strange eerie sound, and so does Freya, and Danny says "It's here, isn't it," and Freya says "something is", and they rush out of the house, leaving a bewildered Trev to follow, catching himself in his zip.

"It was there, something cold," says Danny and Trev points out of course it was cold, freezing - "you let the fire go out, you idiot."

But Frey says she saw it too, and at that point the cops switch on a spotlight, picking out Trev. "Aw shit," says Trev.

Back at the pub Danny's dad Bruce Embling (Malcolm Robertson) is furious with Danny and dresses him down as Sheila Embling (Judi Farr) listens. Bruce tells him to get a girlfriend his own age, and Sheila snidely tells him that from what she hears Freya's got too many boyfriends. Danny storms out.

Danny (v/o, as he walks onto the first floor verandah, guitar in hand): "Trevor Leishman got sent to some youth training centre, they called it, which gave me a chance with Frey. Not much of a chance though. She was set on him now…."

He strums the pop song Corinna, Corinna

"… maybe hypnotism was my only hope. Maybe I could get her under my power, tell her Trevor Leishman was really a hoon, a meathead. The trouble was he'd been OK to me… Then there was that force-field at the ghost house … I'd felt it alright, that night we'd stayed there. I felt something."

The Lark Ascending plays again as Danny walks through the town cemetery looking at headstones.

He arrives at a small wooden cross marked Sarah Elizabeth Amery, At Rest, 1946.

In the pub bar, Danny asks Tom about the old derelict house besides the railway lines.

Tom calls Bob in on the conversation, and asks if anyone remembers who lived in the old house on the hill.

Bob: "Well, I don't remember the face …"

Nils: "Never look at the mantelpiece when you're stoking the fire …"

Danny's dad tells him to bring up another half dozen crates, and then he comes into the kitchen as his Mum's listening to the ABC radio serial Blue Hills.

He pinches a bit of carrot and asks his mum bluntly who was Sarah Amery.

His mother nervously says she doesn't know anything about it, even when Danny prods her by saying Sarah was seventeen when she died.

We cut to Freya coming into the dining room where Gail and Sal are doing their homework. Gail tells her Trevor is mad and unstable, Sal says it's because he's hyperactive, and asks if she slept with him. All the older kids know:

"She's terrible, your sister. They reckon there's a list in the boys' toilets of all the guys who've gone through her. She's a nymphoniac." (sic).

Danny arrives and then he and Freya are walking back over the hills to their special place in the rocks outside town.

They talk about Trevor and the youth centre he's in, and his dad calling Freya a bad influence, and then when she offers him a cigarette, he says he's given up, self-hypnosis.

That starts an extended scene where they first speculate about Sarah - Danny thinks she might have been a prostitute - and then Danny tries to hypnotise Freya and thinks he's succeeded - when she wakes up she'll like him considerably more than that meathead Trevor Leishman and be wanting to make love to him, desperately. Then he lifts up her dress to look under it, until Freya reveals with a laugh that she really hadn't gone under.

Danny (v/o): "If it'd been anyone else, the whole school would have been laughing at me.That was one thing about Freya. You could really trust her. You could tell her anything and she'd always keep it to herself. But that buggered any chance I had of taking her to the mid-year dance."

As Freya shows off her dress and over-done make up to the Olsons - and Gail makes a joke about the make-up - the Everly Brothers crank up over the town and the hall where the dance is being held, and Freya dances alone to the sounds of "Temptation", while the wallflowers sit sad and forlorn.

A couple of lads (Kelly Dingwall one of them) try to crack on to her, offering her beers and to walk her home.

Danny arrives and Pierdon and Malseed give him a hard time for trying to look like Marlon Brando, when he's probably been wanking all day ("God you two are off," says a girl).

Hi sexy, says Freya and when he offers her a fag, she says she's given up - must have been his hypnotising her. "Gee, you're clever."

Gene McDaniel's Tower of Strength is the next hit to play as Freya suggests he tries dancing with one of the wallflowers.

He strikes out, as Trevor walks in the door, and Freya walks out the door, to the consternation of the dancers, and Danny.

Danny heads up to the rocks and lies down under the moonlight, then screams into the air.

Danny (v/o): "He'd be doing it to her for sure. I thought about what Jonah said, that when you have intense experiences, your brain gives off energy, like electricity. And I tried to pick up hers. But it didn't work."

Cut to a train going past Jonah's carriage as he works at the typewriter and Danny's asking what happened to his woman from Cootamundra.

Jonah: "She went. Fell in love with another bloke. 

Danny: "Were you sad?"

Jonah: "I drank myself into a coma every night. (He pours another whiskey).

Danny: "Ever think about suicide?"

Jonah: "You get over it… Maybe never completely. Memory's always there. But it doesn't eat away at you like it does at the time."

Danny: "Is that what your book's about?"

Jonah: " Yeah. Probably be banned, though. First truly erotic Australian novel."

Danny: "If we had a special machine, we could record that force-field, prove it exists."

Jonah: "They'll have 'em one day, machines like that."

Danny: "Do you reckon it's just buildings that have force-fields?"

Jonah: "No, no. The Abos know all about it. The whole world's a … a museum. Everything that's ever happened in a place, it's all there."

Back at the pub, Danny pulls a copy of Grace Metalious's Peyton Place from his drawer.

Danny (v/o): "If the whole world's a museum, an imprint of everything everyone's done or thought, then I knew what kind of force-field'd be in my bedroom. A museum of desire."

He lies down on his bed to masturbate but is sprung by the arrival of Freya, inviting him to come out for a walk. He hastily tucks away her panties.

They end up in the cemetery, and they talk about flying all over town in their dreams. Danny reckons if you believe hard enough, you could fly while you're awake.

Freya says they can try it one night on Willy Hill.

Danny: "If anyone heard us talking, they'd think we're mad."

Freya: "Maybe we are. Or else everyone else is."

Danny: "Is Trevor mad like us?"

Freya: "No. He's sweet though (sighing) I wanted to tell you something."

Danny: "What?"

Freya: "It'll come out soon for sure in this dump. Seeing as you're my friend …I'm having a kid…. Danny?" 

Danny: "Hell (sighing)."

Freya: "Here … (she reaches out to him as Danny snuffles) … Danny?" 

(On Danny breathing heavily and sniffling)

Freya: "Hey, I'm the one who should be crying."

Danny (sighing): "I'm hopeless."

She gently kisses him on the side of his face as he sniffles …

Danny: "That's the first time you've kissed me since I was six…. playing doctors and nurses. You watched me piss. Then you wouldn't let me watch you."

Freya: "Yeah. I was cruel, wasn't it? (they're both crying). This time I was playing properly."

Danny: "You don't have to have it, do you? There's places in the cities, I reckon. I could come with you."

Freya: "But I think I want to have it. 'Cause I'm really keen on him."

Danny sighs and sniffs, and birds cry forlornly and Danny hands back the locket he used to try to hypnotise her.

Danny: "Here."

Freya: "I thought I lost it."

Danny (nodding towards Sarah Amery's cross): "Look ...S.E.A.".

The same initials are on the locket Freya's holding.

Freya: "Sarah Elizabeth Amery."

Danny: "It must be. Remember? Mrs O'Neil brought it at the church fete. From this town.".

At school, Danny listens to news of Freya's pregnancy spreading amongst the kids, with Malseed leading the way in the gossip stakes.

Freya has to run a gauntlet of sniggering men on the pub verandah, then goes past townsfolk watching new fangled television in the shop window, and then Danny peels off to walk alongside her.

He doesn't mind it's all over town. They could get married, pretend it was his, get engaged, he doesn't care.

Freya: "I don't want to marry anybody."

He says he loves her, they're both no different and she thanks him for still being her friend, and turns away to the cafe.

Anne Olson comes in to shout at her about what she's done to the family, and Freya shouts at her to leave her alone.

In the pub, Danny overhears his father saying it's in the blood, and his mother saying that his father never told her.

Father Bruce: "What?"

Mother Sheila: "If you did it with her."

"What do you mean?"

"Well you know what I mean. Every boy in town started out with her. We all knew about it. And that place on the hill was like a free brothel."

"I never went near her."

"That's not what I heard."

"Oh, she was the town bike. You wouldn't know what you might catch."

"It didn't stop anyone else. Her father could've been half the men in town … Well!?". 

"Well what?"

"Did you?"

"I told you I didn't!"

Next morning in the kitchen his mum is telling Danny she got Aquanita in the cup sweep, one of the favourites, but Danny ruins it by mentioning Sarah Amery.

His mum denies knowing anything and thinks Freya would be better off not knowing too. Or does she already know?

Danny: "That her mother was the town bike?!"

Sheila: "That's a disgusting expression."

Danny: "That's what dad called her …"

Sheila challenges him to ask his father - "he'd know better than I would" - and leaves.

Down at the pub cellar as they haul out empty kegs, Danny does ask his father. 

His father explains she turned up with a bloke from the railway, who disappeared. She stayed on, and had a baby there on her own. There were problems and they didn't find her until it was too late.

"She was only young, still underage. I didn't know that until afterwards. Shouldn't even have been allowed in the bar." (He laughs awkwardly, hangs his head).

Danny: "Was she wild?"

Bruce: "People used to talk a lot about her. You know how it is about this place. Take most of it with a grain of salt."

Danny: "All the guys used to get off with her."

Bruce: "There was a lot of talk. Underneath she was a really nice kid…huh, she was still a kid."

Danny: "How come the Olsons adopted Freya?"

Bruce: "Somebody had to. Nils was dobbed in. Didn't have any kids of their own then."  (He moves away, Danny calls after him).

Danny: "Dad? Did you ever go out with her?"

Bruce (hesitating, then over-emphatic): "NO! No, I didn't!"

In the school room, the teacher Miss McColl (Mary Regan) reads a poem by Judith Wright, as Sgt Pierce and the school headmaster (Vincent Ball) interrogate Freya as to whether she's heard from Trevor. She says she hasn't, he doesn't write letters.

The headmaster says they're not asking her to dob him in, but it's for his own good. He robbed a cafe at Bibbengullen last night, and when the proprietor confronted him, Trevor bashed him, and now the man's in a serious condition in hospital.

The sergeant says he was identified from a photograph and the headmaster says the whole state will be looking for him.

The headmaster warns about police out of the district finding him, and then we cut away to the police before she answers …

Tom, Danny and Jonah watch the cops from the pub verandah, and as the song The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance plays, Jonah tells Danny that Trevor was apparently spotted on the road not far from there and it's only a matter of time before they get him.

Night and Danny is walking up to the haunted house. He slides his hand through the broken door to open it, and another hand grabs his and he lets out a yell of surprise and fear - followed by Trevor's strange, goofy laugh.

Trevor's pleased but Danny tells him about the cop cars in the street. He says he's not going to dob him in, and when Trevor asks after Freya, he says he understands that Danny fancies her and that the night he stayed at the haunted house must have been hard for him.

Danny tells him Freya is pregnant, and it'd be really dangerous for Trevor to take her with him.

Trevor says he knows that, he just wanted to see her again, that's all, and he asks Danny to get her, he won't piss off with her, he'd like to, but not if she's got a kid coming.

As Danny goes, he asks if it's "my kid or yours", and Danny says "Yours."

In town Danny goes up to knock on Freya's doors, but cops hidden in the bushes are watching.

Freya emerges and then they're at the haunted house, and Freya hugs Trevor.

Danny goes outside as they discuss the pregnancy. She's glad, even though the father, Trevor notes, is a no-hoper. So's the mother, Freya adds.

"Best of both worlds," says Trevor gently.

He talks about going up north to Dampier, explaining he didn't mean to hurt the guy in the cafe, while outside the cops reveal themselves to Danny and he races to shout a warning to Trevor. "Cops!"

Trevor's got a ute in the garage. Freya wants to come with him, but he tells her to stay with Danny. He'll be alright, he's lucky remember, and he sends the ute bursting through the garage doors and into the night, as one cop clinging to the car drops off …

In the police station, Danny begins singing the song The Man who Shot Liberty Valance as the cops continue the search …

His father comes to collect Danny, and as he leaves, Bruce gives Freya a significant glance … as if wondering if she was his daughter … before quickly leaving, head down.

Sgt. Pierce says they'll have to drop Freya off because the Olsons won't pick her up - they don't want anything to do with her.

Nils is still into the Flag Ale as he tells her she never stops, she can't help it, can she …

A siren wails and dogs bark and howl as Danny watches the empty street from his first floor verandah, and the moths still swarm around the street light.

In school, the headmaster brings news and Miss McColl tells the class that Trevor died as the result of the injuries he received when his car ran off the road.

Danny asks to be excused, and heads to the cafe, only to discover they haven't seen her since the morning.

"What a waste," Anne Olson says of Trevor.

Danny makes for the secret place amongst the rocks, but Freya isn't there.

Back in the pub, Danny calls the cafe, Nils answers and drunkenly tells him they don't know where Freya is and hangs up on him.

At the secret place, Freya is having a miscarriage, blood everywhere as she writhes beneath a chaff bag trying to keep warm.

In the pub Danny plays with a bull roarer, and the mournful cry gives way to Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending.

Danny races back up to the secret place amongst the rocks, but it's still empty, so he heads to the haunted house and discovers Freya on the verandah.

He comforts her and shots of the countryside give way to Danny arriving at the hospital, flowers in hand.

A recovered Freya takes the flowers and invites him to kiss her. "Nice to get a proper visitor."

She asks what they're saying at school, and tells him she could have died because she got so cold.

How come he knew?

He looks at her.

Freya: "It works. Doesn't it?"

Danny nods his head yes.

She mourns the loss of the baby, the only part of Trevor she had left, and Danny gently strokes her hair and face.

Back at the pub, Danny's practising another song on his guitar, as Freya arrives. She got out of hospital in the arvo and things have finished with her step-parents.

Danny offers to talk to his dad about staying in the pub, but she says she couldn't stay anywhere in this place now.

His dad arrives with a false heartiness and offers her a lift, but Danny says he'll walk her home, but in fact they end up back in the misty countryside, where Danny tells Freya about her mother and the house where she lived, and how she was alone when she had Freya.

He hugs her and she says she'll be okay now, and he walks away from her as The Lark Ascending begins to play and Freya heads to the house haunted by her mother and sits on the verandah and on a swing, contemplating ...

The train station, with a waiting train.

Danny and Freya arrive. She'll stay at a hotel, she's got some money saved from the hay bailing, and he gives her a wad of cash he's saved from tips and stuff.

He insists she take it - that way she'll have to write to him at least once, and she suggests doing telepathy messages like they used to.

He doesn't know if it'd work over long distances, but she tells him they could make it work and be pioneers. Midnight on Monday nights, they agree.

At that point Freya's step sister arrives and asks if she's really going. Gail hugs her and says she doesn't want her to go, but Freya says she has to …

The conductor blows his whistle, Freya gets on board, they do a final kiss.

"I'll let you hypnotise me again … one day," says a sad Freya, and the train pulls away from the station, as Danny watches her depart …

The train horn blares in the distance as The Lark Ascending begins again, and Danny stays at the station, reflecting ...

A new day, and the secret place, and Danny is leaning on the rocks, and then he begins caring into the rocks FREYA TREV '62 D. EMBLING

Danny (v/o): I hung around a lot at our place on Willy Hill. Maybe there's a positive force-field up there, 'cause we'd had a lot of good times together. Maybe there's a part of her still there too… (the camera pans over the land) … But I knew she'd never come back...

He puffs on his cigarette as he looks at his carving and at the land, and the image freezes and fades to black and credits roll as The Lark Ascending continues …