Saturday, August 6, 2011

How is the notion of ‘Retreating from the global’ explored in the movie 'The Castle'?

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The Castle directed by Rob Sitch (17)


In a local community, north of Melbourne, residents struggle to retain their homes with the ever-increasing pressure of globalisation and economic rationalism.


Globalisation looms in the form of the airport and the need to extend to make way for bigger, longer and more runways to stay abreast of increasing economic demands of the global marketplace, eventuating in the compulsory acquisition of private property.


The Castle highlights the repercussions of globalisation on family life and the local, but also upon the residents of the community both collectively and as individuals. We find that globalisation threatened to integrate people into a global community. This would have seen to the erosion of their traditions and principles to one global culture, which in effect would mean the community’s loss of identity.


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Through a strong sense of community and history/tradition, ignorance of the global force, idealised notions of ‘normalcy’, links to ‘the house’ and ‘the land’ and family values, the Kerrigan family were able to retain their ‘local’ ideals, and thus retreat from the global.


The strong Australian spirit of mateship and barracking for the underdog, come across as major themes, as the Kerrigans and their neighbours come together unwilling to accept the changes and vacate their properties (and as such are resisting global change). Consequently, a real sense of community is expressed throughout the story.


The first dose was administered when Farouk came knocking on the door on the morn that Darryl (Kerrigan) and the residents of Coolaroo were served notice that their houses were to be compulsorily acquired to allow for the extension of the airport to which they lived adjacent. Darryl answered the door and was confronted with Farouk’s plea to read the letter which he did not understand “read this to me?”, acceptingly, he does so. Again, the sense of community is expressed when we find Darryl’s concern for others outweigh his concern for himself and he disappears to check on his elderly neighbour Jack. The strength of the bond is made blatant later when Darryl offers to pay for Jack’s share in legal expenses and furthermore to take him in, in the event that they should have to move. Through this, we see that Coolaroo is a very close knit community where everyone knows each other. This is given emphasis in the later gate stealing incident, where we find that Sergeant Mick knows Darryl and breathes warning to him about his actions instead of charging him and even suggesting he “put them round the back”.


We find that people in such a community, tend to stick together and stick to the people they know such as Dennis Denuto. Dennis is a small time conveyancing lawyer who knows little about litigation and is clueless in the realm of Constitutional Law. Despite this, Darryl seeks his help in his dilemma, constantly bringing light to his previous battle with Wayne (the oldest of the Kerrigan sons) and supposedly winning in getting ‘only’ fifteen years and of course “trying his best”.


Family values are clearly manifested throughout the story. First, early in Dale’s narration where he states that “Dad’s the backbone in this family. And if Dad’s the backbone, then Mum’s all the other bones”. As the story unfolds, we see the importance of Darryl’s role as the head of this close knit family of honest battlers and maintaining principle in the household (such as, the rule for the television to be turned down whilst eating). He is found to be a simple optimist and philosopher who is constantly full of praise and makes everyone in the family feel important and worthwhile.


Along the way the Kerrigans visit their favourite holiday spot ‘Bonnie Doon’, which turns out to be a stark landscape with a lake in the middle with high voltage power lines running across it. The whole family comes along, including Tracey’s new husband Con, which acts to re-emphasize the loving bond and unity within the family in spite of adversity (i.e. Wayne in jail and the fight for the house).


A quality that cannot overlooked of the Kerrigan family, is their sense of history and tradition. The most obvious portrayal of this, is Darryl’s prized ‘Pool Room’, which contains a collection of everything of significance to him over time, from photographs to beer mugs and the kids’ childhood crafts to Trace’s Sunshine TAFE diploma in hairdressing. It also emphasised more subtly in the importance of events such as ‘Fathers’ Day’ and the traditional family viewing of ‘Hey Hey it’s Saturday’ which comes second only to ‘The Best of Hey, Hey it’s Saturday’.


There are constant links to ‘the house’ and ‘the land’. For the Kerrigans, their quarter acre block is much “more than just a house, it is a home”. Their family home is full of memories and rich in resonant echoes of their past and emotional ties that no amount of money or compensation can replace. It is this belief that breathes life into the philosophy that ‘a mans home is his castle and more important than “a driveway”.


With the unfinished extensions, the house proves to be a constant project, and boasts many ‘improvements’ such as the fake chimney and plastic veranda ornament which Darryl believes “adds a little Victoriana charm”. The children’s old cubbyhouse-proposed-granny-flat-turned-dog-house also shows that Darryl is very resourceful.


Bonnie Doon is also seen to have a ‘sacred link’, the house built with their own hands, with the use of a kit home that “idea’s man” Steve bought over the Trading Post.


It is needless to say that the Kerrigans are quite ignorant of the Global force, which is revealed in their incorrect real estate values. Their home adjoins a runway of a main airport which Darryl believes will be useful in the event that the family may choose to travel, and sits beneath high voltage powerlines which he believes are a “constant reminder of man’s ability to create electricity”. This is further expressed in the deluded comment that “the house is nearly worth as much as when we bought it”.


Really, they seem to have an obscure sense of monetary value. Darryl constantly remarks “you could sell that” to all of Sal’s tacky crafts, and when the valuer visits the Kerrigan house, they were very welcoming and Darryl took the liberty in showing him around the house, pointing out such things that would ordinarily lower the value of the property in the belief that they would add to its value.


The Kerrigan family have an idealised notion of ‘normalcy’, finding pleasure in digging holes and even more so in digging holes and filling them with water. Steve’s life revolves around the Trading Post. Darryl prides in his son’s little gadgets and inventions, dubbing him the ‘ideas man’. They deem Wayne’s 15 year jail sentence for armed robbery ‘normal’ and admire Trace’s intelligence, being “the only one in the Kerrigan family to receive a tertiary education” in having a diploma in hairdressing at Sunshine TAFE.


Globalisation is the notion of universal truths, in that they are held simultaneously as local and worldwide (global) truths; provided by the erosion of traditional boundaries and borders catalysed by the globalisation of communications. As time and distance are collapsed into the immediate and local, knowledge can be seen as at once global and local, freed from but still limited by the laws of time.


The global force poses a threat on the local by internal and/or external means. In the case of The Castle, the local was threatened on both levels. Internally, the main threat was the concept of change. The world must and can only move forward. Although, the family’s values are very much grounded in the local sense, they desire success. This is made clear in the eventual expansion of Darryl’s tow truck business; here, we see the family taking a step ‘forward’. This concept is also seen similarly in the case of lawyer Dennis Denuto who also desires success. Ultimately, he leaves his small office, buys himself a photocopying machine (that never breaks down), a BMW convertible and places a golden plaque at the entrance of his office, inscribed with the words ‘as seen on TV’. (To a small extent) Councils, commercial enterprise and the government play key roles as external threats to the local. These forces are presented in the form the air link consortium, who wishes to expand the airport so that more goods can come into the country.


The global force is very much directed by the powerful corporate and governmental sectors, which dictate and influence much of our lives. However, as shown by the Kerrigan family, by maintaining certain aspects of the ‘local’ community, one is able to retain their ‘local’ ideals and thus retreat from the global.





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