Alena Lodkina’s first feature, Strange Colours offers viewers a visually dazzling display of understated, enjoyable performances, and heady vistas. The unconventional film tracks the journey of soft spoken Milena (newcomer Kate Cheel), who travels to Lightning Ridge – a remote opal mining facility, to stay with her sick father (Daniel P Jones, Hail), who she’s been estranged from.
There, she meets a series of remarkable individuals who populate the mining town, goes to the local pub, has a fling, and tries to decide what to do with her life.
What is interesting about the film is the paucity of big moments, or stereotypical portrayals of outback life. There are very few melodramatic scenes. Instead, Lodkina is interested in the performances, the quiet moments between the characters.
Cinematographer Michael Latham (Casting JonBenet) and Lodkina use shots of barren landscapes, realistic portrayals of locals, simple gestures and actual locations, to give the film a documentary quality. There are no major plots. Instead, it is the ambience of Strange Colours that matters – the burning rays of the sun, the feeling that everyone knows everyone.
Kate Cheel’s performance in particular is impressively restrained. At times a quiet introvert, her character Milena is mostly silent – then suddenly erupts while dealing with her father.
Premiering at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, Strange Colours is a considered contemplation of life in the Australian sticks in all of its earthy glory; a portrait which highlights the hidden side of small town life.