The Year My Voice Broke: Hypnosis on the hill
In their secret place on the hill, Danny (Noah Taylor) offers to hypnotise Freya (Loene Carmen) to help her stop smoking – but he has something else on his mind as well. Summary by Paul Byrnes.
An interesting scene for the way it balances comedy and potentially nasty sexual aggression. Effective use of location to underline growing sexual awakening of the two teenagers – this is their rocky Garden of Eden.
The Year My Voice Broke synopsis
Danny (Noah Taylor) is a gawky 15-year-old, in love with his best friend, the beautiful and free-spirited Freya (Loene Carmen). They’re misfits in a country town in NSW in 1962. When Freya falls for Trevor (Ben Mendelsohn), football star and apprentice delinquent, Danny’s sexual longing turns to jealous confusion. As he tries to win her back, Danny uncovers a dark secret in the town’s past.
The Year My Voice Broke curator's notes
Beneath its quirky story of coming of age in rural Australia, The Year My Voice Broke is a savage portrait of a small town hypocrisy and sexual repression. The beauty of the hills around the town, where Freya and Danny have played together since childhood, is a kind of paradise, in marked contrast to the unhappy living rooms below, where adult problems play out in secret shame. Writer-director John Duigan continually emphasises high and low angles of view and constructs a sense of paradise lost, with a strongly emotional core. The film is an unusual mix – both romantic pastorale, a nostalgic memoir of growing up in the countryside, and a shocking denunciation of its values. The latter was not especially new, but the film’s delicate balance of dark and light tone, especially its use of laconic humour (the mid-year dance, and Trevor’s constant car thefts) made the film very popular with audiences. Geoff Burton’s cinematography is of immense value in establishing a strong sense of place. The film was followed three years later by a sequel, Flirting, in which Danny, played again by Noah Taylor, goes to boarding school.
Notes by Paul Byrnes
This clip shows Danny (Noah Taylor) and Freya (Loene Carmen) at their secret place on top of a hill in rural New South Wales. Freya is smoking and Danny offers to help her give up by using hypnosis. Freya lies down and takes off her locket. Danny proceeds to hypnotise her by dangling it over her. Once she appears to be 'under’ he smokes her cigarette and suggests that when she awakens, she will be keen on him, like him more than another young man, and want to make love to him. When he lifts up her skirt however, she reveals that she is not hypnotised at all.
Educational value points
- Issues of power and consent are explored throughout this clip. Although Danny appears to be in control and therefore in the position of power, a position emphasised in the placement of the two characters, with Freya lying down and Danny standing over her, circling her, this assumed power dynamic is reversed when, as Danny steps over Freya’s 'consent line’ by lifting her skirt, she demonstrates that it is she who is in fact in control. Freya’s power is emphasised by her laughing at his shocked and guilty response.
- The clip gives an insight into Danny’s character. Freya is apparently hypnotised and at Danny’s mercy yet, at first, instead of trying to take physical advantage of her, he chooses to try to plant thoughts of desire in her mind. His sexual frustration, emphasised by his almost feverish puffing of the cigarette, finally gets the better of him and it is left up to the audience to ponder how far he might have gone had Freya really been hypnotised. The scene ends with a reconciliation and Danny’s voice-over suggests his trust in Freya.
- The movie uses landscape to underscore mood and themes. The soft grey haze of the distant hills, the golden glow of the paddocks, and the wind in the actors’ hair and in the grasses all enhance the warmth and intimacy between Danny and Freya. The sweeping vista emphasises the isolation of the two characters in the landscape and the emotional isolation of adolescence.
- The Year My Voice Broke was filmed on location at Braidwood, NSW, and makes the most of the landscape to create a unique environment, contrasting the magic of nature with the realities of human relationships in rural society. It is an example of the significance of landscape and sense of place in Australian film.
- Noah Taylor is one of Australia’s talented male actors, achieving national and international success. While The Year My Voice Broke was only his second film, Taylor has now appeared in more than 35 productions, including blockbusters such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), the controversial biography of Adolf Hitler Max (2002) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005).
- The Year My Voice Broke is one of Australian writer and director John Duigan’s most widely known and loved films. It won Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards in 1987 for Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. Duigan’s films include Flirting (1991) the sequel to The Year My Voice Broke, and the Australian classic Dimboola (1979).
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia
This clip starts approximately 54 minutes into the feature.
Danny and Freya sit at the top of a hill, talking. Freya is smoking.
Freya Did you find out who used to live at the old ghost house?
Danny There was a woman called Sarah. Died 16 years ago. I reckon she might have been sort of a prostitute.
Freya In this place?
Danny I asked some of the blokes in the bar, and they were all carrying on like it was a big joke.
Freya Right. See if you can hypnotise me then. Bet you can’t.
She lays down.
Danny Alright. Give us your locket. Are you relaxed?
Danny OK. Now watch the locket. Backwards and forwards. Listen to the sound of my voice.
Freya Gee, you sound professional.
Danny Are you going to do it properly or not?
Freya OK, I’ll do it properly.
Danny Watch the locket swing backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. And relax. Your eyes are getting very heavy. You are feeling very tired. My voice is very smooth and sleepy. You are so relaxed that nothing matters at all. Can you hear me? Lift your left hand. Now drop it. Oh, God. When you come to, you’ll find that you’re extremely keen on me. In fact, you like me considerably more than you like that thug meathead, Trevor Leishman. And also, you’ll be wanting to make love to me, desperately! Now, I’m not going to do anything bad, so just continue to relax.
He lifts her skirt cautiously and peers up. She rouses and sits up.
Danny I wasn’t going to do anything! I was just trying – I wasn’t going to try and take anything off, it was just…
Freya You’re hopeless!
Danny, voiceover If it had been anyone else, the whole school would have been laughing at me. That was one thing about Freya – you could really trust her.