Skip to main content


Australia, 1995 (MIFF 1996, Australian Panorama)

Director: Lawrence Johnston

After his exceptional award-winning shorts Night Out (MIFF '90) and Eternity (MIFF '94), director Lawrence Johnston's much-anticipated debut feature, Life, is an excitingly cinematic adaptation, or dynamic re-visioning, of actor/playwright John Brumpton's acclaimed theatre piece Containment, a dramatised account of the situation of inmates in the segregated HIV positive section of an Australian Prison.

Brumpton, who co-scripted with Johnston, is surely one of Life's major strengths. He forcefully fleshes out the lead role of quick-tempered hardened Des, a crim who tests positive and is sent to T2 division where his cell-mate. Ralph (a superbly sensitive David Treddinick) is a chatty chap keen to keep the virus at bay. Both Des and Ralph bring with them loads of emotional baggage which is vividly evoked via subliminal flashbacks and interaction between themselves and amongst the other inmates of T2.

Characters such as Robert Morgan's testily manic Snakey, Noel Jordan's poignantly tender limmy and Ian Scott's complexly monstrous Officer Berwick are indelibly etched, as are Belinda McClory's sensually vulnerable Sharon and Libby Tanner's ardently spirited Jane playing the women in each of Des's and Ralph's lives

But to describe this beautifully composed. movingly rendered, altogether shattering experience as 'an AIDS prison drama' denies Johnston's haunting movie the full range and reach of its compelling grip on any number of wider issues and universal concerns As the filmmaker says, "It is a film about relationships, about mortality and the transience of what we call life—about memory and hope It is a mixture of emotions between men and women, tough and romantic, but always strong" (PK)

See also...


Eternity tells the story of Arthur Stace, a man who for decades wandered the streets of Sydney, writing in perfect copperplate script the word 'Eternity' in yellow chalk. Regarded by some as a man ... More »

Dream of Love

The joys of love last but a short time. Through remarkably direct and intimate interviews, Melbourne filmmaker Lawrence Johnston allows us into his family as they ruminate on love and explore its ... More »

Night Out

In this hard-edged film, a homosexual is savagely bashed in a public toilet block and taken for a nightmarish car ride by four hoons "out for a good time" while his lover is interstate. ... Lawrence ... More »


WORLD PREMIERE ... A stunning and cinematic big screen event documentary celebrating Australia at night. ... Showing society in all its forms, people and places, urban and rural, Night explores the ... More »


... ... Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, Last Days of Chez Nous, Little Women) returns to the documentary world of Smokes & Lollies. Fourteen's Good, Eighteen's Better and Bingo. Braces & ... More »


... ... Australia's foremost documentary filmmaker Robin Anderson and Bob Connolly, have turned their unblinking gaze from the tribe, cultures of the PNG highlands (Black Harvest,. Leahy's ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director