Film: He Died With A Falafel In His Hand
Writer: John Birmingham, Richard Lowenstein
Director: Richard Lowenstein
A John Birmingham novel set in various coastal cities around Australia about a 20-something man's quest for stable living
space while making a living following his bliss. Danny (Noah Taylor) is a writer by heart, not by profession. But all that
could change when one of his roommates (Flip the moon-tanner, played by Brett Stewart) suggests that Penthouse pays $25,000
for stories they publish in their magazine. We can see a light bulb go off in Danny's head. Danny is often seen pounding out,
or least contemplating pounding out, stories on his Underwood typewriter (the same kind of typewriter that Hemingway wrote
stories with) and a single roll of Teletype paper, because stories are a stream of consciousness.
A poster child of youthful idealism, which I can identify with. The reason for my comment title (which was lifted from
some 80's comedy about a road race, can't find the title at the moment) is that our hero Danny has secret hopes and ambitions
which set him apart from his menagerie of roommates, hopes and ambitions that will one day get him out of hock. I admire his
minimalist existence, having little or no material encumbrances (other than about $24,000 worth of hock). He is a forward-looking
fellow, with faith in a future (never mind that the Italian girl Anya says just the opposite when she reads his palm) that
will vindicate his tenuous existence from apartment to apartment.
The movie opens with Para militant Milo (Damian Walshe-Howling) yelling "FORE", and driving some type of Australian
lizard horned toad into oblivion with a golf club. Panning to the inside of house #47, we see an assembly of bored, disenchanted
young men, and one young woman, Sam (Emily Hamilton). As it is everywhere and in every time with young men, sex occupies a
priority in their conversation, and Danny relates a tale of "The Hand". His audience, including Milo, stroking a
Rambo type Bowie knife, is enthralled.
There were some really funny moments and cast of characters in the film, like the Goth nihilist Anya, who plans a pagan
holiday, where skinheads come and chain saw the walls off the house during some kind of bon fire-Beltane celebration. With
landlords and credit agents on his heels, Danny packs his slim belongings and leaves house #47.
Anya becomes an important recurring character, and is something of the trickster, introducing chaos and doubt to twist
Danny's and Sam's tender, impressionable minds. She is seen alternately seducing Danny, and then Sam, living with Sam, taking
Sam away from Danny, but later (another house) returning to Danny.
The closed-universe premise of the movie allows characters to leave and return, suggestive of the recurring cycles of
the Lord of the Dance, as described by Anya the Goth Pagan earlier on. We can see Danny's living conditions improving in increments,
but his past is stuck to him like slime to a fish, and eventually we see Milo dragged into Danny's house (#49?) by the police.
Apparently, Milo went on a wild spending spree using one of Danny's many credit cards. The inquisition that ensues is particularly
gruesome, a shooting takes place, and of course sadistic police officers get away with shooting one of the friends (Dirk,
Francis McMahon), proving there are holes in the theory of greater justice.
It is interesting how the film plays with our acculturated conditioning that the girl is the victim and the guy is the
villain in any given breakup. After all, it was Sam (Danny's girlfriend) who was first seduced by Anya, and Danny wasn't seduced
by her at all, only spiritually motivated by her attentions. So why did Sam storm out of the apartment when she catches Danny
and Anya making out in a later apartment? Who's she mad at? Her girlfriend Anya? Or her boyfriend Danny? Confusing.
Confusing, but hopeful and encouraging. This film is an example of the power of faith. You can't underestimate the connection
humans have with each other, how they continue to find each other over and over again. The greater message of "He Died
With" that ties into the closed-universe premise is that the workings and fortunes of the world of humans
has a metaphysical rule of checks and balances. Consider: Danny sends his story to Penthouse Magazine (The Hand), a story
potentially worth $25,000. Danny is just shy of $25,000 in debt. In the end, there is a death, and there is a falafel, but
there are also gods who listen to our prayers, be they danced to the flames of a Beltane fire, or muttered in silent desperation.
We get to find out in the end whether the universe blesses Danny, or curses him. Of course, the point is also reinforced by
whether he gets the girl or not.