Mark La Rosa on
Boundless (2018, 70 mins)

by Jake Wilson

Jake Wilson interviews film director Mark La Rosa
about his debut feature film Boundless (2018, 70 mins).

Jake Wilson: Was this a tough film to shoot, on the practical level? What made it harder or easier?


Mark La Rosa: It was quite a physical shoot. Some of the locations were remote and we had to walk several kilometres transporting our gear. We filmed all day in the sun surrounded by pesky bush flies. There were no caravans to retreat to. That said, the weather was generally kind to us.


What made it easier for me was the support of the actors and crew. Besides carrying out their assigned roles, they cooked and cleaned, helped pack and unpack the vehicle, and did most of the driving. It was great teamwork.



The use of dissolves is very striking—did you plan this from the start, or did you discover it while editing? How did you decide when to use them?


The use of slow dissolves as an aesthetic element was planned. The storyboards indicated where key dissolves – such as the one going from a shot of the town to an open plain – were to be used. I can’t be sure, but I must have had an idea of where some others would go. The remaining ones were decided while editing, based on what I felt was appropriate for each particular moment in the film.  There was no conscious strategy.



Australian cinema has always been centrally concerned with landscape, often seen as hostile or alien. Are there particular films (or other artworks) on this subject that you think of 
Boundless in connection to?


Walkabout is an obvious comparison, as it is with just about any film set in the outback. I’ve watched it many times and it still moves me. Not only did the ‘exotic’ imagery inspire me, but knowing that it was filmed with a small crew using natural light gave me courage. Going back to your previous question, I think the idea of using bridging montages linked by dissolves came from Roeg. 



The way the locations are used has a documentary element, but this is also a film about subjective perception. How did you approach finding a balance between realism and expressionism, particularly in relation to sound?


There are a high number of POV shots in the film, and many scenes in which the characters are either dozing or looking off into space. These may be interpreted as cues for dreams, imaginings or hallucinations. However my intention was to depict only objective events. What the couple witness are glimpses of alternate realities, be they other dimensions or parallel universes or whatever you wish to call them. It is a major failing of the film that it does not convey the idea that the events depicted in successive scenes may be happening concurrently. 


So, with the exception of the music – which is always expressionistic – all the sounds are meant to be realistic. The placement of music was mostly decided in the post-production phase, based on intuition. 



Boundless seems to me more romantic—in a couple of senses—than your work has been in the past. Do you feel that way?


It’s there to provide equilibrium, to balance the harshness with some softness. The couple are in a good deal of strife dealing with the environment for much of the film. A few quiet moments demonstrating their love for each other and their child provide some respite and invite the audience to care about their fate. It is indeed a romanticized depiction of coupledom, as the actors were quick to point out. And yes, it is something rare in my oeuvre. 



Your early Super-8 films were made in a context which allowed an unusual amount of crossover between narrative filmmaking and the avant-garde. Do you now think of yourself in any sense as an experimental filmmaker?


I have made a few bona fide experimental films in my time. However in deference to the dedicated experimentalists out there, I wouldn’t describe my narratives that way. Boundless is driven by cause and effect, like any narrative, and employs too many conventions for me to categorize it in that way. I suppose I don’t mind if someone thinks of it as an experimental film, so long as that description does not marginalize it. For example, I would hate to see it relegated to sidebar events at film festivals. In the end, labels reveal as much about the person doing the labelling as they do about the thing being labelled.



screened on Tuesday, April 27, 2021,in Melbourne, at Thornbury Picture House, as part of the Unknown Pleasures series. Check the Facebook Event Page.

Jake Wilson is a film reviewer for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and the author of Mad Dog Morgan (Currency Press, 2015).

Published April 15, 2021. © Jake Wilson and Mark La Rosa, 2021