To be completely honest I’m not sure why Paradise Lost appears on so many “must-see-cult-movie” lists.
The term ‘cult’ suggests that whatever its describing taps into a slice of society in a way that is as unexpected as it is deep. The people who partake in the ‘cult’ of a film can recite lines word for word, mimic the on-screen action and soundtrack, or just generally attempt to make themselves a part of the movie – a real life extension of the cinematic sound stage.
Who would do this for Paradise Lost?
Who wants to recreate the rage of a bereaved father, the lament of teenagers caught in a courtroom whirlwind, the pose of three murdered boys? No one wants to and no one does.
So what makes Paradise Lost a cult film?
Maybe it’s because it’s the best film of its type, which no one has heard of? It can’t be – it has spawned several follow-up films and Hollywood celebrities raised their voices in support of the teens.
Is it quirky or off-beat in its portrayal? Not particularly – it follows the accepted documentary genre of the missing narrator, letting the people speak for themselves in captured footage or direct interviews.
Perhaps the answer is that it speaks to something we hold dear ourselves. We generally see ourselves as good people. After all it’s not hard to be good when life is easy. But hard situations make for hard decisions. Where would we be if we were faced with the hard times faced by the people in Paradise Lost? If we were a parent, would we sit back and wait for proper justice to take its course? Would we realise that punishing the guilty party wouldn’t bring back the lives that have been lost? As detectives would we ensure we assembled evidence that proves, beyond question, that the accused are guilty? Or would we be tempted to cut corners, to make sure the accused don’t get a chance to commit another atrocity?
Sure, there are lots of “what-if” films, but Paradise Lost is real life and perhaps this makes all the difference. The mutilated bodies are real, the grief is real and the sentences handed down to the accused are real. This is not a thought experiment invented at a coffee shop in downtown Los Angeles. This is life.
So maybe that’s the thing Paradise Lost taps into – life.
Don’t’ forget that after the Smokescreen screening on Saturday, everyone is invited to join us at the Old Bank to talk about the film enjoy a free drink upon presentation of your ticket. A movie and drink at Dubbo’s best bar for $10 – not bad value, if we do say so ourselves ;)