(David Caesar, Australia, 1995)


David Caesar’s documentary Carcrash is a cleverly constructed piece of propaganda. Its first half is a jaunty, whimsical, sometimes hilarious account of the Australian obsession with driving cars.

A well-selected bunch of talking heads tells us about the assorted joys of our car culture: selling cars, racing them, having sex in them. One gentleman offers his theory that traffic lights are symbols of insidious capitalist control – and describes how he loves ramming into them.

The film is constructed a little like one of Peter Greenaway’s odd, highly formal essay-films (such as Act of God [1980]). The various stories told by the participants are skilfully intercut. Caesar intersperses comic intertitles, hyper-real images of road signs and markings, and a sociological commentary that analyses the liberating role of the car in our daily lives.

Mid-way through, the mood abruptly changes. The whimsy is dropped, and all interviewees now describe, in great detail, only one thing: the horrendous road accidents in which they have been involved. In a tour de force of slow-burn editing, Caesar interweaves their narrations with chilling footage of a ‘crashlab’ test.

Carcrash is a grim, even apocalyptic piece. Its argument is that, ultimately, we all pay for the illusion of freedom that cars that give us – “we pay with our land, our air, our peace of mind and our blood”. It counts as propaganda because its message could not be any clearer: don’t drive.

MORE Caesar: Idiot Box, Mullet, Greenkeeping

© Adrian Martin April 1995

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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