The Quiet Earth at Te Whare Hēra / by Rebecca Pilcher

Artists Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro recently hosted a screening at the Te Whare Hēra Residency space,  of New Zealand sci-fi thriller The Quiet Earth featuring Bruno Lawrence as man-alone in a deserted post-apocalyptic world (partially filmed in Hamilton). This relates to Claire and Sean's current body of works in progress drawing on classic horror films and uncanny landscapes.

Sometimes the simplest things can be so great, or perhaps a combination of simple things with apt timing.

Such was the screening of the 1985 cult classic Quiet Earth by Geoff Murphy at the Te Whare Hēra Gallery and Studio. After all the chance to see a classic movie  you have been meaning to watch with couple Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, at the prow end of the Clyde Quay Wharf at the exclusive prize winning luxury apartments on the Wellington waterfront is not something to miss.

The Australian duo are part of the International Artist Residency Programme in Wellington. Initiated by Massey University’s Te Whiti o Rehua School of Art and the Wellington City Council in late 2014, this residency is focused on bringing contemporary international artists to live, work and exhibit in Wellington city. One of the focuses of the residency, which has already brought a number of excellent artists right to Wellington's shores,  is to make a real difference to the cultural lives of our community.

This Saturday night it certainly made a difference to my cultural life. The combination of the impending Council Guy Fawkes Fireworks extravaganza and being tucked up in the Te Whare Hēra Gallery watching a movie about a sole survivor in a deserted world with festive crowds gathering a glass pane away oblivious to our presence was a little surreal.

Despite being shot in 1985 The Quiet Earth is startlingly contemporary, and despite the obvious indicators, mostly cars and shop signage of the times , there is a timelessness about the characters and film treatment.  I suspect if it was shot now there would be a zombie or two in the mix instead of the few inert corpses and the movie was all the more successfully unsettling due to its emptiness. In fact, this strange vivid movie was unusual when it was made because instead of reverting to the action packed movie default of the post apocalyptic movie genre of the time, it is decidedly non action and almost at a standstill in  comparison. Yet this approach is effectiveand yes, it is slow moving at the start building to an ambiguous ending, but it works.

Popping out of the gallery straight into a crowd of people straining to see a fireworks display was a good end. The fireworks were spectacular and it's not often that many people are out en masse in Wellington. As we were caught in the tide to leave (it was a bit chilly after the fireworks and people were in a hurry) I couldn't help but think of 'The Quiet Earth's' emptiness..... and  how vaguely threatening the thought of that emptiness would be.... and also how New Zealand still has that man alone 'thing' embedded in its cultural imagination and a lingering anxiety about emptiness. Or does it? Maybe there have been some shifts.