Everynight ... Everynight, like another Australian movie made earlier but released theatrically around the same time, Mad Bomber in Love (1992), is a local film that arrives with a heroic low-budget legend.
Director Alkinos Tsilimidos used his own money to shoot the movie, and then sought government funds to complete it.
Tsilimidos has wisely chosen a subject to match his slim material resources. Adapted from Ray Mooney's play, Everynight ... Everynight is an attempt to document and dramatise the horrors of Pentridge Prison's notorious H Division in the early 1970s.
The story focuses on Christopher Dale (David Field), a prisoner who refuses the brutal, authoritarian system of the prison by mentally "resigning" from it. Although we are far from the Hollywood ethos of The Shawshank Redemption (1994), there is at least a fragile note of optimism here. Through his actions and agitation, Dale inspires his fellow prisoners to resist their lot.
Much of the film is devoted to depicting the appalling rituals of physical and psychological violence in H Division. Bodies are battered, wills are broken, absurd codes of obedience and submission govern the slightest movement or utterance allowed to the inmates.
The influence of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987) weighs heavily on this film, as it did on a previous Australian prison movie Ghosts ... of the Civil Dead (1989). There is a similar kind of rigid minimalism used to convey a claustrophobic world: long takes, static frames, grinding repetitions. Tsilimidos makes good use of the gaunt physiognomies of his actors (especially Phil Motherwell and Bill Hunter) rendered in stark, black and white tones.
The film does not overcome a certain crippling theatricality. The problem is not that the piece is wordy, or that it is set wholly in a confined space – plenty of great movies have been either, or both. Rather, the whole "pitch" of the film, especially the manner in which the actors project their parts, derives from a stylised sort of naturalism far better suited to stage than screen.
And, again like Full Metal Jacket or an Oliver Stone film, this movie is frustrating in its lack of a wider perspective on its subject. Our noses are rubbed in the minute, daily horrors of this penal hell, but any larger social factors that might explain why and how this system came about in the first place are entirely missing.
It is probably fair to say that Everynight ... Everynight is exactly what its makers intended it to be: grim, grey, static and relentless. But, ultimately, it is deeply unsatisfying both as drama and as cinema.
MORE Tsilimidos: Silent Partner
© Adrian Martin May 1995