Australia has always produced weird, gripping, raw movies. Movies that verge on the insane at times, that can chew you up and spit you out, Sacred Heart is no different.
Kipan Rothbury (“Spectrum (Short)”), Hill End) is Robert, a religious young man who has recently lost his wife and unborn child in an accident.
This sends Robert on a downward spiral and his first port of call is his religion. He begins questioning why his god hasn’t helped him. Why, despite him praying every night, he’s given him nothing.
Robert is angry, drunk and snorting things he shouldn’t. He comes to the realisation that it’s not gods fault, but the devils. He challenges Lucifer to show himself, he picks a fight.
When his priest, David Field (“The Rover”, “Chopper”), arrives to find out how he’s doing, Robert keeps the man in his home, questioning him on his religion, his beliefs, his way of life.
The priest does what he can to talk Robert back to religion but as Robert gives him more and more alcohol, the priest gets drunker and drunker and begins pointing out that Robert isn’t quite as squeaky clean as he’s making out.
Kosta Nikas (“Boat People (Short)”, “Light (Short)”) is the writer and director of Sacred Heart. He has put together an intriguing film, one full of questions, what if’s and a claustrophobia that engulfs you.
The movie does take a few minutes to find it’s gear. There’s a promising start with some fabulous aerial footage of a massive graveyard as we see Robert and the priest burying his wife and child, only for Robert to tell the priest “fuck you” and walk off.
The time in between that and the two men meeting again at Robert’s home is a tad slow, but you always get the impression it’s building to something, and what a something.
There are twists and turns that you’ll do well to see coming, let alone guess. You think you’ve got the movie pegged as Nikas takes us down the atheism route, only to swing around and take the religious side, finally landing back in the middle.
It would have been all too easy for Nikas to have rammed religion down our throat, god has the answer for everything. Equally, it would have been easy for him to have gone the other way and pointed out how god allows people to die, takes the good.
Rather brilliantly, Nikas does both, without it feeling too much like he’s sitting on the fence. The two men spar off each other brilliantly, Field in particular is delightful as the straight-laced priest getting drunker and more wicked as we go.
Rothbury looks like a man possessed throughout, a haunting look is across his face as he spits venom at anyone and everything, cursing everyone but himself for the loss of his wife and child.
The setting of the living/dining room is as claustrophobic as it is non-descript. It serves little purpose and yet it’s containing Robert’s rage, allowing it to bounce around and hit both men, and us.
Sacred Heart is a wonderful, intense, impish film that pokes and prods at the religious and non-religious alike. Both will love it, both will hate it, both will, no doubt, say they win the battle.
Also published on Medium.