AMBROSIA | REVIEW & INTERVIEW

A wee while back I was offered the opportunity to review a new and interesting movie that was self-made by Rhiannon Bannenberg, a woman who went out, bought a camera and the next day started making a feature film, a movie that would become AMBROSIA. She had no training, no background in the field and learned as she went. I would scoff at even considering this but she succeeded, and not only that, she thrived and now thanks to the peeps at FanForce AMBROSIA has had a premiere and has a season, sadly the season is only one week at the Gala Cinema in Warrawong but for a first-time inexperienced filmmaker to get a season of their baby onscreen is spectacular. I had the pleasure of also interviewing Rhiannon about her first cinematic child and I share that along with my review below. For times to see AMBROSIA this week in Warrawong or to find out more about FanForce and/or hassle them for more screenings click HERE.

 

AMBROSIA MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
AMBROSIA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW AND INTERVIEW | MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

BY JASON KING

OFFICAL SYNOPSIS:

India travels back to her childhood home ‘Ambrosia’ to spend time with her brother, boyfriend and long time childhood friend. It’s a place of comfort and memories that she hopes will calm her anxious mind.

Through the tranquil surrounds of Ambrosia a new face appears. And she calls herself Harry.

India and Harry form a curious bond, a friendship that grows only at dawn by the ocean. It is a companionship that India begins to enjoy, for her sleepless hours are no longer spent alone.

However India finds herself grappling with traumatic events of her past – events from her childhood that have affected her ever since. It becomes apparent to India that no one really understands its severity and its affect on her life.

Amidst her feelings of isolation and anxiety, Harry offers her comfort.

When Harry makes an introductory appearance at India’s house, her other friends appear to sweep Harry up with open arms. Before long, Harry has become part of their endless summer of make believes.

But it is in the guise of friendship that Harry begins to unravel bonds and test allegiances. India grows more and more unsettled as Harry’s presence taints the room of her childhood sanctuary.

As the holiday draws to a close India and the group are forced to confront the tragedies of the past. One a night of celebration and masquerade, secrets of their intertwined stories are revealed that will change them all forever.

 

AMBROSIA MOVIE IMAGE
AMBROSIA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW AND INTERVIEW | INDIA (REBECCA MONTALTI) & FINN (SCOTT LEE)

 

The first thing that will slap you in the face with this movie is the cinematography, it is just stunning, every frame is artistic and beautiful to look at, so much so, that from making this movie Rhiannon is already employed as a cinematographer and has completed filming on two separate movies, one of them being tephen Sewell’s EMBEDDED (slated for release this year). Not only this but Rhiannon also wrote, composed and edited the movie. She is a true talent, the music alone is award worthy.

The movie is VERY ART HOUSE – it is a subtle unexplained artwork that is slightly surrealistic and it never spells everything out for you. India suffers from chronic pain but it is never explained to you, it is just there, part of the reason for Rhiannon making AMBROSIA was for something to take her mind off her own chronic pain that she suffers. The film slowly evolves the tragedy that causes the chronic pain and this uncurling snake is great to watch.

 

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AMBROSIA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW AND INTERVIEW | INDIA (REBECCA MONTALTI) & FINN (SCOTT LEE), FRAN (DENNIE NEILSON) & THEO (ELIAS JAMIESON BROWN) STROLLING

 

It is not all perfect, but it is perfect for the audacity and determination of actually just making a feature movie. I found some of the acting at times a bit wishy washy but they are not professional actors and there is one scene, the “tent scene” that is just stunning and I loved everything about it. Also slightly crushing on Theo :).

I also found the vagueness of the story would frustrate a lot of people who are used to Hollywood story-telling being spoon-fed to them, it is more about the emotion, heart and beauty of the film that is made to be appreciated, not the nitty gritty of plot details. I was also quite confused as to how the characters could afford to just take as much time as they wanted to live life in this way and have put it down to the possibility of them all having incredibly wealthy parents, the film had an Australian Hamptons thing about it.

That being said I would never imagine the Illawarra area looking so goddamn beautiful and the movie is given extra emotional connection as it is part of the childhood of both Rhiannon and most of the cast, all of them school friends back in the day.

 

AMBROSIA MOVIE IMAGE
AMBROSIA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW AND INTERVIEW | INDIA (REBECCA MONTALTI) & THEO (ELIAS JAMIESON BROWN) STROLLING WITH UMBRELLA

 

At times I was reminded I was watching a first-time filmmaker’s work of art, mainly through the script, but to be honest the film is beautiful and on a visual par with Campion’s THE PIANO. I cannot wait to see future works from Rhiannon and now, for me to shut up with the review so you can read my interview with the maestro herself, Rhiannon Bannenberg.

 

SALTY POPCORN INTERVIEW WITH RHIANNON BANNENBERG

 

Firstly – thanks for taking the time to do these emailed interview questions Rhiannon, hugely appreciated. Well done on a great debut!!

1) Why choose filmmaking as your artistic channelling?

I love the experiential and immersive nature of film. It is a big ask of the audience to give you two hours of their time. But within that time you have so much to play with – film is so rich in its use of the senses and I find the durational element an exciting and challenging medium to work with.

2) By the chronic pain experienced by India is it more psychological survivor’s guilt or is it neuropathic as you yourself experience/d? I know it mentions constant pain in the movie but I am naive to the pains she suffered and it was very subtle in its placement, she does look sick, she does mention in the voice over the endless pain, and her boyfriend brings it up with her but the overwhelming guilt of the accident appears traumatizing enough for anyone to bare.

Ambrosia has always been about subtlety and the invisible parts of our selves that lie beneath the surface. I never set out to tell the story in one particular way, but rather leave enough ambiguity for interpretation and space for peoples own experiences to shape their understanding and connection to the film. In Ambrosia, I felt it was very important to explore the themes of chronic pain with a subtle and sensitive tone. I wanted to keep India’s pain masked and invisible, an undercurrent that remained with her at all times.

3) Sorry for the pain you yourself have experienced, I know the movie is your way of facing it but how cathartic has AMBROSIA been in your recovery?

The film is in part drawn from my own experiences of chronic pain as a young adult, and also just as much a figment of my imagination. Now when I watch the film in its entirety, I can see the cathartic qualities that helped me accept and manage life with chronic pain. Through making the film and learning more about chronic pain, I was able to let go of my preconceived ideas and prejudices about people who have chronic pain, and as a result, I felt much less anxious about facing my own reality.

4) Does watching the movie pain you with the reminder of your own past or is it more like hugging a baby each time you see it?

There were many years where I was very resistant to the reality of being a person with chronic pain. It was something that I didn’t feel represented who I was in any way, in fact, it felt like the complete antithesis of who I was. But as I’ve grown older, learnt more about chronic pain and that it doesn’t need to consume me, I now see Ambrosia as a triumph – both personally and artistically. It’s not perfect, but neither am I and I now feel so grateful to have met all the people I worked with during the making of Ambrosia.

5) What a stunning location the Illawarra region is, never even knew that!! Were these locations scouted or do they hold a special meaning to you?

All of the locations we filmed at were part of my childhood. I have a strong attachment and memory to each location, as do many of the cast and crew. Something that is really strong amongst the cast and crew is a deep love for the Illawarra – we all grew up here and still marvel at its beauty and diversity every day. We had an absolute ball trekking around the district, finding the perfect backdrops for our scenes.

6) Everywhere I have read about you it states you had absolutely no experience before picking up a camera and then shooting a movie the next day – I say phooey 🙂 That cinematography is too sublime. How or what in your past has steered you towards that artistic eye? Photography or are you an “artist” like the characters?

Music has been my thing since I was a little girl, and it was while I was studying my degree at The Australian Institute of Music that I decided to focus specifically on film music. My entire family are pretty creative, but I think my mother has probably been my biggest influence and cultivator of my creative direction. She noticed early on that I was quite a sensitive, expressive kind of kid and over the years and she has given me complete freedom to pursue my creative passions.

While I was filming Ambrosia, I thought a lot about one of my favourite lines from John Keats. ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness’.

 

AMBROSIA MOVIE IMAGE
AMBROSIA | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW AND INTERVIEW | INDIA (REBECCA MONTALTI)

 

7) Speaking of characters, how did they manage to live for so long without finances? Is their history that of wealthy families? I was getting very envious of them!

Me too!

I wanted the story of India and her experiences to take place in a slightly altered reality, one where there was an ambiguity of time and place. I wanted to depart from the mundane realities of life and have the story unfold is a world that felt real, but slightly like a dream.

8) How did you find your cast? They all appeared very cohesive together, that “fort-like under the sheets dress up” scene was my favourite of the movie, it is one of those things that would happen in your life you would never forget.

Most of the cast were friends of mine or people I had been to school with. I saw great talent in them and once I brought them together, everyone became close friends immediately. I knew if the cast and crew had a strong friendship, it would be reflected in the story we were telling on screen. The ‘Tent’ scene as we like to call it, was very much a re-creation of many nights I have spent with my own friends, drinking wine and talking about everything from ghosts to politics.

9) Now you are leaping or bounding into the industry, huge gratz on EMBEDDED by the way, where do you wish your film career to steer? You did absolutely everything on your baptism in fire on AMBROSIA besides play all the roles, but with EMBEDDED you have leaned towards cinematography. Is that what you like the most? Is there another directing movie in you? What is next for Rhiannon?

I have an equal love for cinematography and directing; for me, and the way I like to work, they go hand in hand. But it was a great experience taking on the role of Director of Photography on Embedded and I learnt so much from working with such professionals. But whether I’m telling a story through the lens or working with actors, I find both really satisfying and challenging. I’m already working on my next film – and film making is absolutely what I intend to do for the rest of my career.

10) As a first time filmmaker with limited experience what were the biggest lessons you learned while making AMBROSIA and were there any calamitous disasters in the learning process?

I learnt a lot about the value of collaboration, the absolute necessity for organisation and the ever-important skill of being able to make decisions fast. I also learnt that there is a wealth of knowledge and information out there and if you have a problem, you can probably find the answer somewhere – even if it does take you all night on youtube.

11) What did you love the most about making this movie?

There is no doubt the best thing about making Ambrosia was working with the cast and crew. They have become some of my closest friends and since making the film, they have all gone on to pursue studies and careers in the film industry. I’m also overwhelmed by the response I’ve had from people who have felt a particular connection to the film and it’s exploration of chronic pain. For something that I kept very close to me for many years, having people I don’t know come and say the film expressed exactly how they feel – I have no words. I am amazed.

12) How does a first time filmmaker get a foot into the industry? What advice would you give young whippersnippers keen to replicate your path to success?

From what I can see, there is no sure-fire way to get a foot in the industry – something which has caused me and many others I am sure, great frustration. But what I have learnt is that you have surround yourself with good people and then be willing to go out and make something. Something you’re passionate about and then make sure you finish it. One of the biggest challenges was finishing what became a pretty ambitious project. Once you’ve got something you’re proud of, you can’t do it alone. Don’t be shy, don’t belittle your work – people need to see it. This is what Ambrosia has taught me.

13) Can you tell us about Fan-Force and how this has helped you?

The team at Fan-force have been incredibly supportive of Ambrosia since my wonderful producer Steve Jaggi introduced us. Fan-force is a platform that allows anyone, from film makers to the general public, to host their own screening of a film of their choice, in the cinema. It’s so exciting to be part of such an innovative group of film lovers who want to see cinema continue and thrive in the 21st Century.

Thank you so much for your time in answering these questions Rhiannon and best of luck for your future and for the release of AMBROSIA – I look forward to your next pieces of storytelling!

 

3 and a Half Pops

 

 

Jason King is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).

 

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