Close Up

5 - 26 April 2011: Close-Up on Hal Hartley


Close-Up presents four of Hal Hartley’s early feature films. Hartley’s films breathe life into themes of love, class and ambition by an impassivity which represents reality as stark and absurd.

The Unbelievable Truth
Hal Hartley
1989 | 90 min | Colour | Digital

Hartley's first feature – shot in less than 12 days in his backyard for a mere $200,000 – examines the undercurrents below the surface of normal middle class existence. An ex-con arrives back in his hometown and has an impact on dysfunctional, bright teenager Audrey who finds herself inexplicably drawn to this interesting and possibly dangerous man. Is he a priest, a mechanic or, as most townsfolk would have it, a mass-murderer? The film looks at the relation between knowledge and truth and the relation of rumour and bias to reality.

Hal Hartley
1990 | 107 min | Colour | Digital

Hartley's second film furthers the dry dialogue and spare settings of his debut with the tale of an unlikely romance between Maria, a well-meaning yet thoughtless pregnant teenager, and Matthew, a frustrated young man who assembles and repairs electronics. In the face of antagonism and malicious gossip, they attempt to foster a trusting relationship, which is played out as a deadpan farce

Hal Hartley
1995 | 85 min | Colour | Digital

Stylistically experimental, Hartley’s fourth picture tells the same story three times, varying the characters and location considerably: a congenital flirt must decide whether or not to commit to a current lover, who otherwise will marry someone else. The scenes are in New York, Berlin and finally Tokyo. The latter section has an abstract cinematic approach, including sequences in traditional Japanese pantomime and Hartley himself playing a film director opposite his real-life wife Miho Nikaido.

Henry Fool
Hal Hartley
1998 | 138 min | Colour | Digital

Hartley’s epic is looser and more expansive than his previous films. Henry Fool is an ex-convict sex offender; a chain smoking, beer guzzling, pseudo-intellectual egomaniac. He opens up a magical world of literature to Simon, a garbage man who turns his hand to writing the great American poem. As Simon’s controversial career takes off, Henry’s past catches up with him.