The Night the Prowler: The new Felicity
Felicity’s rebellion is now in full swing. She has taken to wearing leathers and breaking into other people’s houses. After a night in Centennial Park, she discovers an old naked man lying near death in a derelict house. In him, she sees her own future. As she leaves, she passes a series of people who seem to be living happy lives. Summary by Paul Byrnes.
In the film’s final scenes, director Jim Sharman introduces a more optimistic tone, and a sense of hope for Felicity. The sense of escape from the claustrophobia of the house is palpable in the series of travelling shots along the side of the park, but there is also a generational aspect. Sharman cuts between Felicity, a bag lady and a young girl, seen behind the bars of the park, suggesting a connection. He ends with a magnificent shot up the floors of an apartment block and out over the city, but the suggestion of communal living is an optimistic one. These people have escaped the dark horrors of the family home.
The Night the Prowler synopsis
In a wealthy part of Sydney, Felicity Bannister (Kerry Walker) pretends she has been raped by a prowler, in order to take control of her own life. Her neurotic mother (Ruth Cracknell) is more worried about her daughter’s upcoming wedding. Her father (John Frawley) is concerned that she’s no longer a virgin. As the family’s fragile structure crumbles, Felicity becomes a prowler herself.
The Night the Prowler curator's notes
The Night the Prowler is based on a short story by Patrick White, one of the greatest novelists Australia has produced, but this was his first screenplay and it shows, in a tendency toward over-statement. The film is a savage satire on the neuroses of the privileged of Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where White lived, and the director Jim Sharman grew up. Much of the satire verges on invective, and the film was criticised for being ponderous, pretentious and condescending. Parts of it are like that – especially some of the dialogue – but the film also has some moments where everything works.
White’s bitter humour is then matched by Jim Sharman’s playfully surreal visual sense, and the fine performances of Kerry Walker and Ruth Cracknell. The film also had its defenders, who saw a lot of truth in its depiction of a dysfunctional family. ‘The Night the Prowler is the most ambitious film involving family relationships yet produced in Australia’, wrote critic Adrian Martin in 1980.
Notes by Paul Byrnes