Lantana, directed by Ray Lawrence, is an Australian film that follows the lives of a group of people living in Suburban Sydney, as they attempt to navigate their relationships with the ones they love. The film explores intense themes of betrayal, trust, loss and love, and allows the viewer a glimpse into the everyday troubles that occur behind closed doors. Lawrence utilizes film techniques such as mise-en-scene, soundtrack, camera shots, camera angles and lense focusing to expertly convey these themes to the viewer.
Throughout the film Lantana, the concept of betrayal between life partners is explored through both the relationships of John and Valerie, and of Leon and Sonja. In the scene in which Valerie’s phone calls are ignored by John, mise-en-scene is utilized to convey the sense of betrayal in John’s actions. The recurring image of the phone and answering machine, coupled with the photographs of their daughter, and of them as a couple, presents a sad irony in how their relationship has developed. Furthermore, the stark contrast between the harsh lighting of the phone box from which a voice over of Valerie’s pleas can be heard, and the warm lighting of their home highlights the harsh betrayal with which John ignores her. Similarly, the theme of betrayal is also starkly present in the scene in which Leon tells Sonja about the affair, after he has told her about his knowledge of her visits to Valerie. In this scene, a medium shot of Sonja is included to convey the strong sense of betrayal she feels, as the shock is clearly evident from her facial expressions. Cynicism is also utilized by Lawrence to convey the betrayal Leon feels at his wife’s secrecy, through his statement that there was a time where there was no private between you and me. Clearly, the technique of mise-en-scene, shots and sound no doubt conveys Lawrence’s ideas of betrayal throughout Lantana.
Lawrence also explores the necessity of trust in a functioning and loving relationship in his film Lantana through stylistic features such as sound, camera focusing and lighting. In the scene in which Paula collects her children from Jane after Nick’s return from being questioned, Paula makes her trust in Nick evident through the use of dialogue. Paula states that he didn’t do it Jane […] He told me, and it is through this statement that her strong trust for Nick is displayed, showing Jane that his word is enough for her. As one of the only happy couples in the film, Lawrence makes it evident that trust is needed for a relationship to work. Through the budding romance of Claudia and the mystery man, Lawrence is also able to convey the idea of trust to the viewer through techniques such as camera focusing and lighting. Towards the end of the film, Claudia returns to the restaurant, and warm lighting is used to symbolize the new hope for her and the mystery man. The camera lense focuses on these two, blurring their surroundings, and it is clear that Claudia has trusted that he will return to the restaurant, conveying the urgency for trust in a healthy relationship. Undoubtedly, Lawrence is able to convey the theme of trust through techniques such as sound, camera focusing and lighting.The concept of loss is almost overbearing throughout Lantana, and Lawrence utilizes camera cuts, shots and the soundtrack to convey to the viewer the tragedy of the character’s situations. In the scene in which John and Valerie share intimacy, frequent cuts and shots are utilized to convey the clear tension and loss both of them feel. Frequent cuts are used in between their faces and they are never shown in the same shot, which conveys the idea that they are isolated in their grief. An extreme close up of Valerie displays her grief as she utters look at me John,’and it is his aversion of her stare that conveys the idea that they are united by grief and nothing more. The idea of loss is also quite present in the scene in which Leon listens to the tape of Sonja’s sessions with Valerie. A close up of Leon’s face displays the overwhelming sadness he feels as he realizes what he almost loss, and this is accompanied by soft music, which softens further as he reaches this realization. Indeed, the characteristics of camera cuts, shots and the soundtrack are vital to the depiction of loss in Lawrence’s Lantana.
It is clear that love is also a powerful force in the lives of the characters in Lantana, and Lawrence’s expert involvement of techniques such as mise-en-scene and soundtrack beautifully displays the love of John for his daughter, the love between Leon and Sonja, and the love in many other relationships in the film. In the scene in which John visits the site of his daughter’s murder, his love for Eleanor is conveyed through mise-en-scene, the image of fresh flowers being lain among dead ones, which is symbolic of the time he has spent there, and the love and dedication he feels towards her. This is accompanied by evocative flute and guitar music performed by Paul Kelly, highlighting his pain and love for his dead daughter. The soundtrack also plays a key role in depicting the love between Leon and Sonja. At the end of the film, Leon and Sonja slow dance, with Sonja finally returning his gaze, conveying her love and forgiveness. The accompaniment of the song Que Sabes Tu De Amor or What do you know of love?, helps to highlight the love shared between these two, and it’s power of forgiveness. Certainly love plays a large role in the film Lantana, which Lawrence explores through clever use of mise-en-scene and soundtrack.
Lantana is undoubtedly an extremely powerful film that is successful in conveying the struggles of everyday people and their relationships, something that every viewer can relate to. Lawrence’s efforts to convey the ideas of betrayal, trust, loss and love through the use of mise-en-scene, camera techniques and soundtracks and truly commendable, and his film Lantana is certainly a credit to Australian film making.