If you’re familiar with 35mm film, you’ll know that it’s beautiful, expensive, and risky. Now imagine shooting an entire film in one take—a take that lasts the exact length of a roll of 35mm. Also, the film occurs at ‘the magic hour’, that beautifully lit time between 5am and 6am—so not only do you get just one take per roll of film, you only have the time for two takes. And since you’re a young Australian filmmaker, you can probably only afford four rolls of film.
This is Rhododendron.
Directed by Lewis Attey, and produced by Brett Tinnings and Brett Carwardine, Rhododendron is a film about anger and the deafening silence that follows the din. In the early hours of the morning, a middle-aged man works himself into a violent rage and confronts his noisy neighbours. It’s a documentation of anger, from the inciting incident, to the cathartic release, and finally, the period of uncomfortable introspection that follows. It’s a sensory journey that presents an abrasive contrast between impulse and reflection, chaos and order, dark and light, and noise and silence.
The visuals were helmed by cinematographer Ryan Alexander Lloyd, and to cut down on film expense, Rhododendron was shot on 2-perf rather than 4-perf 35mm, using the Aaton Penelope. The technical feats of shooting in one take during ‘the magic hour’ wasn’t done just to impress; it’s a calculated choice that informs the tumultuous narrative.
Attey spoke to us at Vincent about his interest in following a domestic dispute in real time. The one-shot movement contributes to the building tension, and establishes the physical space of the neighbouring homes and the families within, creating a crushing suburban claustrophobia. The changing light and the camera movement from inside to outside and back again meant it needed to be shot on film which can handle a dynamic range of exposures.
And as for choosing to shoot it at ‘the magic hour’? Well, it serves the story that the main character would be furious at the loud music being played before dawn, leading to a final moment of stillness as he reflects on his actions just as the sun begins to rise–but also, it’s just damn pretty.
Rhododendron has been in the film festival circuit for the past few years, but is finally available to watch online here.