There’s a great scene in Proof when two of the main characters, Martin and Andy, are tearing out of the Coburg Drive-in after narrowly escaping a beating from a gang of bogans. In the slapstick scramble, Martin, who’s blind, ends up in the driver’s seat of the car, and the pair is swiftly pulled over by the cops.
“You’ve been blind all your life … what were you doing driving a car?” Martin is asked after the arrest.
“I forgot,” he replies with a stony face.
Written and directed in 1991 by Jocelyn Moorhouse (The Dressmaker), Proof is the story of a blind photographer, Martin (played by Hugo Weaving), who uses his camera as “proof” in a world he’s mistrustful of.
It not only launched the director’s career (and won a Golden Camera award at Cannes), but also Weaving’s and his co-star’s, an at-the-time unknown Russell Crowe, who plays Martin’s naïve friend, Andy. Andy is the only one he trusts to describe his photos to him, to confirm that what Martin senses is real. Actress Genevieve Picot, who completes the three-hander, is also brilliant as Martin’s manipulative, lonely housekeeper, Celia.
What emerges is a cruel, triangular power play between deeply vulnerable characters.
“I think its one of the significant films in the Australian archive,” says Margaret Pomeranz, an ambassador of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. “All of these films are going to deteriorate over time unless they are restored and digitised.”
Twenty-five years on, the NFSA is now asking Australians to crowdfund $25,000 to restore the film to its original, pristine glory.
Funds raised by the campaign will cover part of the cost of restoration; the NFSA will fund the rest, which will cost between $50,000 and $150,000 for the time-consuming labour and equipment.
Not only will this preserve the film, it will mean it can be shared in cinemas in a digital format and enjoyed by a new generation of viewers.
While the themes of trust and loneliness are universal, Proof is a rare snapshot of early ’90s Australia, and particularly of Melbourne.
The film was shot in and around Melbourne’s suburban streets, parks, laneways and restaurants (Zia Teresa, where Martin first meets Andy, is still open on Lygon Street), even inside and outside the Arts Centre on St Kilda Road.
“It has Australian landscapes, it has Australian accents and idiom, but it’s a film that touches people internationally,” Pomeranz says.
NFSA Restores Proof crowdfunding appeal is open until June 30. All donations over $2 are tax deductible.