In Proof (Jocelyn Moorhouse 1991), the photographs of blind central protagonist, Martin, construct multiple Melbournes. Martin’s compulsive photography is a product of a dysfunctional relationship with his mother and becomes his primary mechanism to document and regulate his world. Through this process, Martin’s Melbourne exists as a fossil; the preserved remains of his memories. In contrast, Martin’s burgeoning friendship with Andy introduces a Melbourne that exceeds the fossil image. This Melbourne is captured in shared photographs that reflect the promise of community abundance; a promise connected with 1990s Melbourne live music culture. The soundtrack by Melbourne band, Not Drowning, Waving, significantly contributes to this heterotopic representation of Melbourne, and their distinct musical style further evokes a lived Melbourne from this period. Proof’s soundtrack here combines with recognisable chronotopes of the inner city to re-fossilise this Melbourne for the present-day spectator for whom, like the film’s characters, Melbourne was their lived experience.

The three technologies of representation, the photograph, the moving image and music, are continually juxtaposed in Proof, defining them as relational ontological modes of existence for its central characters and, twenty-five years after the film’s release, for inner-city Melbourne itself. The film itself operates as a corollary to the affectively excessive fossilising and controlling function of Martin’s photographs, but unlike the photographs this process is in large part derived from the highly emotive and culturally historicising function of the Not Drowning, Waving soundtrack. As a result Proof exists as a fossilising form in its own right, bringing the inner city of early 1990s Melbourne back to life. Through this combination the geographical space of Melbourne is coded as both lived and constructed – past and contemporary.

In its opening title sequence, Proof (Jocelyn Moorhouse 1991) constructs Melbourne through a slideshow of photographs depicting the minutia of life, clouds, grass, leaves on plants, a park bench, tiles, a cane, and the fragmented images of a dog’s back. It is the photography of a child, highly personal, random and mundane. It is most importantly the photography of a child who is blind.

The random out of focus mundane images of Martin’s photography

From this opening sequence until the narrative closure, photos are recurringly juxtaposed with deep focus, long tracking shots of trams, streetscapes, parks, iconic Melbourne buildings, and flashbacks to the intimate spaces of childhood. The sound of howling wind in the title sequence is layered with the instrumental complexity and driving drumbeat of 1990s Melbourne band, Not Drowning, Waving (NDW), their distinctive musical style combining with these images to create a Melbourne defined by an “acculturated sensorium.”1 This process shapes the representation of Melbourne as a Modernist city whose regulation is redefined by codes of entrapment. In contrast, Martin’s (Hugo Weaving) burgeoning bro-com-styled friendship with Andy (Russell Crowe), a dishwasher at a local restaurant, provides a source of liberation from this emotional entrapment. Andy is associated with the liveness and presentness of the NDW soundtrack and introduces Martin to the freedoms associated with a heterotopic Melbourne. Through a highly affective nostalgic visual and sonic appeal, Proof calls into question the function of memory, photographs, stillness and movement as theorised by Laura U. Marks, Laura Mulvey, Roland Barthes and Henri Bergson, not just of an individual, but also of a city and its historical cultures. For a spectator who is familiar with this Melbourne from the 1990s, Proof offers a pleasure based in a similar affective fetishistic engagement with the past as that experienced by the characters.

The gridlines of inner-city spaces and architecture can be read figuratively, delineating the emotional boundaries of characters and their ruptures, particularly the tension between their fetishistic and fossilising attachment to the past and their desire to move on and away. Thirty-something, middle-class Martin has been blind since birth. His prickly distrust of people began with his mother and has now extended to his dysfunctional relationship with his housekeeper, thirty-year old Celia (Genevieve Picot), a middleclass mother-substitute, for whom Martin is an unobtainable object of desire. Martin and Celia both use photographs as a mechanism for distancing themselves from their world, controlling it through differing modes of capturing, fetishisation and fossilisation. Laura U Marks equates the concept of fossilisation with that of photography, arguing that both are a “witness to the life of the object, even after the latter has decayed.”2 She further notes that Deleuze’s concept of the fossil and Benjamin’s concept of the fetish are both defined by “an eerily beckoning luminosity,” that makes the fossil “volatile when reactivated by memory,” because it encases a past that is “not over.” This renders its evacuation a perilous endeavour.3 As a product of his psychological state, Martin’s photography reframes Melbourne as a fossil image.

The Fossilising and Fetishised Entrapment of Martin and Celia’s 1990s Melbourne

Proof constructs a Melbourne from the ‘inside’ where in keeping with the melodrama that underlies its black comedy conventions, the internal conflict of the central protagonist is displaced onto the mise-en-scene.4 This is particularly evident in the segue from the opening titles to the establishing sequence, a long shot that institutes a connection between the Melbourne landscape and Martin. The vibrant instrumental complexity of the NDW soundtrack cuts to an austere diegetic soundtrack of traffic and the distinctive rattle of a W class Melbourne tram, which since the 1940s has been “an icon of Melbourne and an important part of its history and character.”5 A blurry close up of the green tram fills the screen to operate as a diegetically-derived wipe, so that once the tram passes, Martin is revealed behind it, moving in a similar determinedly unwavering manner, his cane moving as rhythmically as the clatter of the tram, neither prepared to stop for people in their way. The photographs of nature in the opening slideshow are replaced with a grey shopping street of inner-city Melbourne, suggesting the subordination of nature to the unified geometric patterns of the Euclidean space of a modernist city and its inhabitants. The sonic shift from the NDW score to the diegetic ambient sounds amplifies the bleakness, stemming from the alienation that Heidegger argues manifests itself in modern industrial cities in opposition to the internal life of its individuals.6 In Martin’s case, however, the bleakness of the city reflects the bleakness of his internal life.

The bleak laneways of an ‘old world’ Melbourne add to the gridlines that code Martin and Melbourne as unchanging,, defined by the past.

A cut to a close up of Martin making his way alone in a bluestone laneway brings relief from the loud discordant noise associated with the shopping strip. The soundtrack now contains only the comforting sound of the rhythmic tapping of Martin’s cane on the bluestone, birds singing and a plane flying overhead in the distance. There is a determination in his isolation and the predictability of the cane taps, the noise of an unrelentingly consistent bodily contact with the built environment that doggedly resists an acknowledgement, much less an appreciation of its diversity or changing nature. Together the opening titles and opening sequence establish Martin’s Melbourne, one where the vibrancy of life is removed from a world that has been gradually distilled down to the mediated and fossilised form of photographs of the opening titles and the militant consistency of the tap of his cane. This is Martin’s world.

The materiality of the image is central to the ontology of Martin’s world, operating as a both the mode and expression of his psychological entrapment. Through flashbacks it is revealed that Martin’s mother died of cancer when Martin was a small boy. At Martin’s request, she had given him a camera; a mechanised substitute for his eyes, designed to alleviate his dependence on his mother. However, the dependency and restrictions of this mediated existence is encapsulated in Roland Barthes’ observation that, “the photograph belongs to that class of laminated objects whose two leaves cannot be separated without destroying them both: the windowpane and the landscape.”7 This relationship is enacted in the flashback scenes depicting Martin as a child sitting at the window, as his reserved upper-middle-class mother describes the image outside. After she dies, Martin substitutes his mother’s vision with a camera that he can control, using photographs to manage his pathological distrust of her vision and her death. In one of the most intimate scenes of the film, Martin gives Andy a photo of his childhood garden to describe. When Andy asks why it matters that this photo can prove whether Martin’s mother was lying to him over a trivial thing like a garden, Martin emphatically retorts: “It was my world!”

Martin as a child trapped behind the window as his mother describes the world outside

Through his inability to accept his mother’s death, Martin’s photography both reflects and contributes to his entrapment in the ‘unpleasure’ of this traumatic moment and the mediation of his world through their fractured relationship. Following his mother’s death, Martin’s whole world is defined by the stasis of the death drive; a drive that Freud argues, bypasses the psychic drive of the pleasure principle of wish fulfilment through its compulsive adherence to the ‘unpleasures’ of isolation and repetition.8 As Martin tells Andy, his photographs are “proof that what I sensed was there was really there. That I was right.” The window-pane that was the barrier between Martin and the potential freedoms of the outside world therefore persists as a visual metaphor in Proof to code the personal borders constructed through this compulsive imprisonment in a mediated existence.

This entrapment in the past extends beyond Martin’s photography to the lifeless rooms of his home. Martin’s family home is the fossilised remains of the emotional austerity of his relationship with his mother. This is particularly evident in the cold and empty shots of Martin’s house that precede the first flashback of Martin as a child. In this memory Martin uses his sensuous explorative touch to search for his mother as she sleeps in her room. A close-up tracking shot of his fingers travelling along the wall of her bedroom to her bedhead, her pillow and finally along her face and neck ends with his mother’s startled gasp. The icy rebuke in response to the gentle nature of Martin’s touch now echoes through the emotional austerity of the adult Martin’s home, a well-preserved artefact of the 1940s when it was his grandmother’s family home. Now the only signifiers of the present moment are a ticking clock and a dripping shower. As his home and memories illustrate, the past is preserved as a condition of entrapment that inhibits Martin’s ability to mature emotionally, so that Martin’s Melbourne exists as a fossil, that is, the preserved remains of Martin’s childhood memories. The co-mingling of past and present intertwined with internal and external imaginings, reconstructs Melbourne’s diverse fragmented landscape into one that is highly regulated through repetition and fossilisation – a Melbourne that is unchanging, an almost extinct city, from Martin’s past.

Martin’s memories and his photographs reconstruct a Melbourne from the late 1960s and early 1970s, a conservative city of old world values on the cusp of change to be brought about by the women’s liberation, gay liberation and other protest movements. Martin, his mother and their relationship embody this stifling old-fashioned culture. Martin tells Andy that he was cloistered away by his mother because a blind son was a source of shame. The flashback of Martin sitting at the window as his mother described their garden depicts his mother as the embodiment of traditional values through her highly mannered speech, refined deportment and conservative dress.  These values extend to Martin’s cultural immersion – a record collection comprised entirely of classical music. The manicured lawns, neat borders, and plaques in the park in which Martin walks his dog, Bill, point back to the past, to a time of tranquility. The bluestone stone laneways are visual metaphor for laneways of memory. Martin’s photos all capture this backward looking, static, virtually fossilised city – about to change.  Martin symbolically embodies the city- he is also about to change.  His photographs register this shift, particularly those of Andy who initiates this shift, while inviting a closer inspection of the past of both Martin and Melbourne.

The fossilising images of Martin’s home

In an attempt to regulate the potential volatility activated by memory, Martin labels each image with a Braille label maker, the dots on the back of the image clarifying the memories associated with the image captured on the glossy photo paper. He limits the description to “ten words or less” thereby reducing his fossilised world to a series of narrowly stated facts. As Roland Barthes observes, in this act of labelling images, the “purely ‘denotative’ status of the photograph, […], in short its ‘objectivity’,” is curtailed by its reduction to the text.9 Barthes further explains that reduction occurs because “it is not the image which comes to elucidate or ‘realise’ the text, but the latter which comes to sublimate, patheticise or rationalise the image.”10 Through this compulsive capturing and labelling process, Melbourne in Proof is reduced by Martin’s photographs to a series of static, obsessively encapsulated events, both mundane and poetic, which Martin can hold in his hands and control. As a result, in Martin’s photos, Melbourne is an imprisoned moment, a laminated object, endlessly repeated for the dissection of a traumatised child’s need to prove the veracity of his senses, and ultimately to confirm that his mother did actually die as opposed to leave him.

Through Martin’s photography this compulsion to repeat, to prove intuitive truths, extends beyond the photograph itself to the subjects it captures, recoding the space of the city as, in Iain Chambers terms, “the translation of geography into ontology.”11 The grid pattern of Melbourne’s built environment is premised on Euclidean geometry, where angles and distance are fundamental systems of measurement. In Proof the squares and rectangles of Melbourne’s built environment is translated as the boundaries of Martin’s psychological entrapment.  Martin’s use of photographs as Proof accords with Euclidean geometry’s “assumption of a handful of intuitive truths or axioms, from which further propositions can be deduced to create a wider comprehensive and logical system.”12 These assumptions are central to Martin’s compulsion to repeat, which is, as Mulvey argues, an inherent feature of photography, as she notes, “a photographic image is always of one specific and unique, although, of course, endlessly reproducible, thing.”13 The rectangular frames of Martin’s photos recur in the frame of Martin’s glasses, in Celia’s apartment, in the sash window frames behind which Martin sits, the seats of the concert hall, the concrete borders of the paths of the botanical gardens, the blue stones of the laneway and the tram tracks. The gridlines of Melbourne’s Euclidean city are replicated by the gingham pattern of the tablecloth in the restaurant where Andy works. Martin deliberately pours wine onto the tablecloth to demand the immediate attention of the harried waitress, suggesting his need to rupture these gridlines – in this instance expressed through a child-like act of petty civil disobedience against his female present and past-defined world.

Martin’s child-like act of petty civil disobedience against his female present and past-defined world

This emotional entrapment in the past extends to Martin’s relationship with Celia. Much as Melbourne is reduced to a fossil image through Martin’s photography, Martin, and later Andy are reduced to fetish images through Celia’s photography. Whereas Celia obsessively desires Martin, believing herself to be in love with him, Martin responds to Celia as a replacement for his mother, finally articulating the contempt and distrust he has felt since he was a child. Martin primarily enacts this through his caustic rebuffs of Celia’s sexual advances. Euclidean gridlines mark the locations in which they meet, however, in contrast to Martin, Celia is able to construct the “form of the presence” that she desires through her use of photographs. For Celia, photographs are, in Walter Benjamin terms, auratic objects: objects with an aura that “[make] our relationship to [them] like a relationship with another human being.”14 Accordingly Celia is not entrapped by the endlessly repeated boundaries of a fossil and the compulsion of the death drive that codes Martin’s photography. Instead, Celia chooses to structure her desire for Martin through the act of entrapping using the fetishistic repetition inherent in photography. This is an activity she later extends to Andy. Celia has been aware of the change in Martin and the increasing role that his friendship with Andy has in his life. This threat is coolly conveyed in a scene where Celia ponderously reconstructs Andy from photos Martin has taken. Distilled into an object central to Martin’s world, Andy is literally pieced together by Celia as the sum of assembled traces or fetishised body parts. As Celia sits at the dining table, the camera statically frames her jealous investigative action as an archaeological exploration through which she recreates an Andy defined by fractured, ill-fitting parts. Each piece of Andy is constituted by the presentness of that photographed experience, resulting in a temporally, geographically and physically disproportionate image of Andy. Framed against a variety of Melbourne locations, Andy is reconstructed as a complex map of Melbourne, the geographical diversity suggesting the broadening of possibilities he offers Martin, Martin’s world and his place in it – as well as the degree of threat he poses to Celia. As the photographs are Martin’s world, this reduction of Andy to another object for Celia’s manipulation, her own personal voodoo doll, reflects her control over the auratic object and, accordingly, the comparative level of control she has over Martin and his experience of life.

Celia’s pleasure in the fossilising and objectifying function of photography in Proof is perhaps most clearly demonstrated in the scene in which Celia invites Martin back to her flat after their date at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Celia’s flat epitomises her control over Martin and his world, particularly through its evocation of Iain Chambers’ concept of “geography as ontology.” Covered in framed photographs of Martin, this domestic space is transformed into a museum for the fossilised displays of Celia’s captured desire for Martin. The boundaries that contain Celia’s desire for Martin are most strikingly literalised by the frames surrounding the photographs that adorn her wall. Celia’s control of Martin and of the Melbourne landscape is displayed in these photographs, all outdoor shots of Martin, hung like trophies on her wall, and spilling into a multitude of standing picture frames that fill the horizontal surfaces in her lounge room.

Martin positioned as the prized trophy in Celia’s lounge room

The carefully framed shots of Martin that cover Celia’s lounge room

Whereas the volume of photographs suggests the depth and prolonged duration of Celia’s desire, the careful placement and framing of the photographs indicate the pleasure of fossilisation, of containment and distance. It equally suggests the pleasure of keeping Martin’s ‘presence’ safely locked away in the ostensibly private domain of her lounge room.15 As Marks notes, an auratic object “maintains its distance no matter how closely we embrace it: it is distant from us in time even as it is present in space.16 A medium long shot frames Martin sitting on Celia’s couch beneath this photo wall as the live subject, rigidly and obliviously positioned as the most prized of these trophies, seeming as captured, alienated and distant as his image in the photos that surround him.17 For Celia, Melbourne is a space where both Andy and Martin are stalked, manipulated and caught as objects of prey.

1990s Melbourne as a Site of Music, Movement and Abundance

The NDW soundtrack provides a counterpoint to the images of entrapment that codes Martin and Celia’s worlds. In contrast to the classical music of the symphony orchestra experienced on Martin and Celia’s date at Melbourne’s concert hall, Hamer Hall, or on Martin’s record player, the vibrancy of NDW’s world music on the non-diegetic soundtrack extends across multiple scenes and locations to sonically construct an energetically diverse Melbourne. Forming in 1983 and disbanding in 1994, NDW, “combined elements of rock, ambient music and world music; their lyrics dealt with characteristically Australian topics: word-pictures of landscapes and people, the seasons, and some political issues.”18 In their website, Follow the Geography, NDW define their music as “adventurous” and “boundary breaking.”19 In contrast to the equal temperament of the four-square rhythms of the orchestral music, the NDW score is polyrhythmic, creating a sonic-scape based on tension and release. An eclectic meeting of Western and non-Western musical instruments augments the dynamic experience of the score, so that along with its unexpectedly affective nature, it embodies the intricacies of Martin and Andy’s friendship. The upbeat tempo, eclectic instrumental sounds and driving drum beat infuse the mundane images of the city – a park, a veterinary clinic, and a drive-in – with a complexity that Martin and Celia are both trying to mitigate in their worlds. Accordingly, the NDW soundtrack itself plays a pivotal role in the construction of Melbourne’s heterotopic urban geography. The rhythm, melodies, harmonies and timbres of the NDW soundtrack generate an affective musical experience that regulates the bodily engagement with the Melbourne screen space. This affective experience builds as the film progresses from the opening title to the scene in the veterinary clinic, to convey the promise of the irrepressible, captured not by the image but that which resides in the circumstance and events around the image at the point of its capture.

The sonically rich and dynamic NDW score used in the veterinary clinic photo montage sequence offers an antidote to the isolation of Martin and Celia’s worlds. It is the only scene where photos are used for community building, the counterpoint to Martin’s use of photography. Martin and Andy visit the veterinary clinic after Martin accidently crushes the stray cat that Andy has named Ugly. This marks the beginning of Andy and Martin’s friendship. It is also Andy’s first exposure to Martin’s perception of the world through sounds and smells, and his use of photographs to document his reality. The montage sequence commences with Martin telling Andy to hold Ugly up so that he can document their presence.

Andy holds Ugly up initiating the transformation of Martin’s photography from documentation to candid mementos.

In contrast to the solitude and fragmentation of Martin’s photographs in the opening title sequence, the ensuing documentation of pets and their owners at the veterinary clinic evolves into a group photo session. This sequence illustrates Andy’s growing importance to Martin, as the photos move from documentation, to candid photos of Andy with other pet owners in the clinic. In this sequence, Melbourne is defined as in a state of transition that is intertwined with Martin’s rite of passage, as he progresses from the photographs of a solitary child to those of an adult community member. This enrichment of the image with the liveliness of the music soundtrack recodes Melbourne as spontaneous and alive, transforming the mundane into joyous images of shared community.

The juxtaposition between the NDW soundtrack and the images establishes a desire for a transcendence beyond the events depicted in these photographs as much as it establishes the desire for the transgression of emotional boundaries and borders experienced by Proof’s characters. As Iain Chambers argues:

The immediate factuality of the image –the photograph, the cinematic sequence, the digital scan – apparently embodies and exhausts the presence of being. […] the image is forced to reveal its logocentric impulses as a power and a limit, as a promise and a threat, as an extension and a closure. Between this and what continues to exist outside the frame lies a path along which the poesis of sound maintains the promise of the irrepressible.20

In Proof, the “promise of the irrepressible” is established in the opening title sequence, when the sound of howling wind layered by an increasingly eclectic array of percussion instruments, piano and drums commences before any image is revealed. The irrepressible extends to the mundane sounds within the diegesis, including neon lights flickering in the clinic, the pouring of wine, the dripping of a shower, a ticking clock, rain, birds, and shoes walking on wooden and linoleum floors. These are the recurring sounds of the minutia of a modernist city that Martin uses to define the contours of his world; sounds that he attempts to quantify with photographic evidence. The promise of community and abundance that is overlooked through a focus on this minutia is, in contrast, asserted by both the content of the photographs and the evocation of NDW’s music. The pleasure of participation in a shared event is amplified by the lyricism and jubilance of the NDW soundtrack accompanying this sequence, coding this event as a celebration of a heterotopic Melbourne.

The spontaneous assemblage of community in the Veterinary Clinic

Andy’s outgoing affable personality is illuminated through this scene and subsequent scenes featuring NDW’s dramatic, eclectic musical score, constructing Andy’s ‘translation of geography into ontology’ as one defined by the non-diegetic music soundtrack and movement. The instrumental ensemble on the non-diegetic soundtrack that is associated with images of Andy in this scene operates in stark contrast to the leitmotif of melancholic contemplation associated with Martin and Celia, derived from staccato piano keys. Instead, Andy is associated with the lack of regulation symptomatic of the impulsive immediacy of NDW music style as well as Melbourne’s live music scene. NDW were integral to this scene, with their distinctive music associated with the inner-urban Melbourne culture of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Live music researcher, Sarah Taylor suggests people who were in Melbourne in the early 1990s remember this era fondly, noting there were “lots of things happening in a small area.”21 This clustering of the live music scene enabled audiences to make impulsive decisions about the gigs they would attend, resulting in the spontaneous assemblage of a music community, similar to the spontaneous assemblage in the veterinary clinic in Proof. Martin’s Melbourne is recoded through Andy’s perspective borne from the irrepressible promise of community and abundance associated with NDW’s music.

The Fossil Image of 1990s Melbourne for Proof’s Spectator

For the spectator familiar with this early 1990s Melbourne, the distinct sounds of NDW evokes a nostalgia and desire for this community. This community-based Melbourne is constructed in the veterinary clinic and later the drive-in sequence primarily through the NDW soundtrack. These sequences are defined by a tension between the present moment of narrative events within diegetically Melbourne of Proof a past evoked by the early 1990s Melbourne music scene. This conjures a Melbourne activated by the process of memory, one that may facilitate a disengagement from the representation of Melbourne as ontological extension of Proof‘s characters. The twenty-five-year span of time between the time of writing and Proof’s production in 1991 constructs Melbourne as a fossil image, situating the Melbourne represented in Proof in a past that can be simultaneously remembered and equally disavowed like the preserved remains of a now extinct form. As Moorhouse notes, it is her Melbourne, the Melbourne of 1991, as much as it is Celia, Martin and Andy’s.22 Laura U Marks argues that cinema contains ‘fossil images,” the inexplicably powerful images that are “all that remains of a memory.”23 Remastered by NSFA and re-released in 2016, Proof has been made readily accessible for this spectator, facilitating the greater availability of this nostalgic engagement with the film and so the significance of these fossil images

The veterinary clinic photo wall of patients and owners and the Guide Dogs donation box

The rise of the digital image demarcates the past-ness of Proof’s historical moment. The physicality of the chemical-emulsion photograph and celluloid forms locate them as artefacts of a cultural past defined by boundaries of access and tactility not present in the digital image. Equally, the non-diegetic NDW composed score constructs an internal imaging of Melbourne. Combined they operate as both a site of nostalgic rupture and desire for community evoked by the live music associations of the band, and affective immersion in the 1990s Melbourne on screen.

The sonically constructed Melbourne created by the NDW soundtrack reasserts a pastness, constructing a cinematic Melbourne which accords with Laura Mulvey’s observation that, “just as the cinema animates its still frames, so it brings back to life, in perfect fossil form, anyone it has ever recorded, from great star to fleeting extra.”24 Mulvey’s observation can be extended to the landscapes and cultural moments fossilised through this filmic process. Through the evocation of the fossil image a viewer can withdraw from the present moment of the narrative and engage with the luminosity of the Melbourne on screen as a product of a personally experienced past.

This process provides a parallel position for Proof’s spectator as that of Celia and Martin; an identity defined by the juxtaposition of past and present, movement and stillness, haptic and sighted that occurs through the simultaneous evocation of Melbourne as a lived experience versus a fictional Melbourne on screen. Henri Bergson further argues that, “to call up the past in the form of an image, we must be able to withdraw ourselves from the action of the moment.”25 In Proof this withdrawal is predicated on the combination of a spectator’s familiarity with the NDW sound and the live music scene in 1990s Melbourne, as well as with a youthful Russell Crowe and, to a lesser degree, Hugo Weaving who operate as chronotopes of the Melbourne-based film and television industries through their physical bodies and Crowe’s body of work set in Melbourne locations.26 Chronotopes “materialise history”,27 functioning as a bridge connecting representation with the real world.28 The chronotopes of inner city shopping strips, inner suburban streetscapes, the Coburg Drive In and the packets of Minties in its snack bar, the Kew Botanical Gardens, the Arts Centre spire and bluestone laneways all contrast with those that have since vanished, including the W class tram phased out in the late 1990s, patient-photowall and the life-sized guide dog donation box in the veterinary clinic, Martin’s 35mm camera, the envelopes of Martin’s photos developed at the chemist and the orange décor of Hamer Hall. Significantly, these contrasting chronotopes construct a landscape that, existing only 25 years before, may have been experienced by Proof’s present day spectator. As Alison Craven has argued, “in realising and making visible narrative places, landscape is also implicated in […] transmitting or evoking a sense of place, a reaction ultimately moderated in the spectator by familiarity with places shown and places known.”29 For this spectator, the inherently indexical nature of Proof as a piece of cinema, “allows unresolved pasts to surface in the present of the image.”30 This is further enforced by the temporal pull of the NDW score, as Iain Chambers argues, “music permits us to travel: forward in fantasy, backward in time, sideways in speculation. Above all, music draws us into the passages of memory and its ‘sudden disjunction of the present,’”31 predicated on our mind’s ability to travel back to the past, but not our body’s. The fossil image is evoked for the spectator who experienced this 1990s Melbourne first hand. In Proof, memory, music, movement and stillness, combine with the fossils and chronotopes to affectively produce a complex Melbourne that cannot possibly be contained in “ten words or less”.

This article has been peer reviewed.


I would like to gratefully acknowledge the incredibly generous and insightful feedback I have received from the referees, the guest editors, and from my colleagues, Barbara Creed, Djoymi Baker, Susan Bye and Kim Howell-Ng.


  1. Sobchack, Vivian. Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), p. 63.
  2. Laura U Marks, The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000). p.81
  3. Laura U Marks, Ibid. 2000). p.81
  4. Thomas Elsaesser, “Tales of Sound and Fury: Observations on the Family Melodrama,” in Home is Where the Heart is: Studies in Melodrama and the Woman’s Film, Christine Gledhill, ed. (BFI Publications, 1987), p.52
  5. Melbourne’s wide streets and geometric street pattern helped its tram network become the world’s largest, and its gridded networks reproduce a Melbourne defined by geometric patterns.
  6. Kimberly De Fazio, The City of the Senses: Urban Culture and Urban Space (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.), p. 27
  7. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, (London : Vintage, 1993), p. 6.
  8. Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, James Strachey, Ed and Trans (London: Hogarth Press, 1961), pp 18 -21
  9. Roland Barthes, Image, Music, Text; Essays Selected and Translated (from the French), Stephen Heath, trans. (London: Fontana Press, 1987). p. 19.
  10. Roland Barthes, ibid p. 19.
  11. Iain Chambers, “Maps, Movies, Musics and Memory,” in The Cinematic City, D. B. Clarke, Ed. (New York & London: Routledge, 1997), p. 233.
  12. Howard Eves, A Survey of Geometry. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1972). p. 10.
  13. Laura Mulvey, Death 24x A Second: Stillness and The Moving Image, (London: Reaktion Books, 2006), p. 10.
  14. Laura U Marks, op. cit. 2000. p. 81.
  15. The framed photographs of Martin replicate the expression of fandom on social media, as Carsten Stage argues, “the mediation of (a live experience or performance) has an ‘intensifying potential’ in that it ‘stress(es) the importance and more-than-normal of what is being mediated.” Carsten Stage, “Screens of intensification: on DIY concert videos of Lady Gaga and the Use of Media Interfaces as Tools of Experience Intensification.” Journal of Aesthetics and Culture 4, (2012): p. 1-12.
  16. Laura U Marks, 2000. p. 81.
  17. This fossilisation of Melbourne through the textuality of images finds its corollary in the claymation-construction of Melbourne in Mary and Max Mary and Max (Adam Elliot 2009), particularly in its final image when Mary arrives at Max’s apartment to discover his body on the couch and a lounge room wall plastered to the ceiling with all of Mary’s letters. Max has Max has faithfully ironed, laminated and displayed these letters throughout the course of their 25-year friendship. The letters, similar to the photographs represent the boundary between the outside world and the space of intimate being. A relationship with a significant other over the course of many years defined by a faithful devotion.
  18. The NDW sound track for Proof won the ‘Best Independent Release’ and was nominated for ‘Best Original Soundtrack/Cast/ Show Album‘ at the ARIA Music Awards of 1992 Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_Drowning,_Waving#cite_note-ARIA1992- Accessed 19/1/2017. These awards acknowledge not just the technical accomplishment of the soundtrack but also the cultural status of the band as local Indie music.
  19. http://www.followthegeography.com/sxz
  20. Iain Chambers, “Maps, Movies, Musics and Memory,” in The Cinematic City, D. B. Clarke ed, (New York & London: Routledge, 1997), p. 232.
  21. Simon Leo Brown, “Melbourne and Sydney’s live music scenes are changing, researcher says,” ABC News, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-12/the-changing-face-of-melbourne-and-sydney-live-musicscenes/6072620.
  22. Jocelyn Moorhouse, “Director’s Commentary,” Proof DVD, (Umbrella 2001)
  23. Laura U Marks, op. cit, 2000. p. 85.
  24. Laura Mulvey, Death 24x A Second: Stillness and The Moving Image, (London: Reaktion Books, 2006), p. 18.
  25. Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory by (1896) Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer, trans, (London: George Allen and Unwin 1911), p. 31.
  26. In the early 1990s, Russell Crowe’s early star image equally connected his youthful larrikin persona with an inner-city Melbourne landscapes as much as it did, a Sydney landscape. He appeared as Kenny Larkin in the first series of Melbourne based Neighbours (1.581, 1.588,1.589,1.596), made appearances in the Melbourne-based series Acropolis Now and The Late Show, and starred in Romper Stomper (Geoffrey Wright 1992).
  27. Mikhail.Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, Trans, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), p. 247.
  28. Mikhail Bakhtin, 1981. p. 279.
  29. Alison Craven, “Paradise Post-National: Landscape, Location and Senses of Place in Films Set In Queensland.” Metro, no. 166 (2010):108-113. p. 108
  30. Laura U Marks. op. cit. 2000. p. 84.
  31. Iain Chambers. op. cit. 1997, p. 232.

About The Author

Dr Diana Sandars is a lecturer in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne, Australia, where she teaches courses on Australian Film and Television, Screen and Cultural Studies and Social Justice.

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