I AM HEATH LEDGER , Canada, 2017, featuring Heath Ledger’s family, friends, professionals, actors. Directed by Adrian Buitenhuis, Derik Murray.. 90 minutes, Rated M (Coarse language).
Heath Ledger achieved a great deal in his film career, acting and moving into directing, in his short life of 28 years. He died in January 2008.
This is a Canadian documentary and might well have been called The American Life and Career of Heath Ledger. While there are scenes in Perth and Bondi Beach, there are no references to his Australian films, Two Hands or Candy and only the briefest references to Ned Kelly, an occasion for having a conversation with Naomi Watts – with some Australian bush scenery in the background, so different from American scenery.
However, the film makes a very good case for Heath Ledger and his career achievements.
The film also has the advantage of the director interviewing Heath Ledger’s parents and his four sisters, noting their admiration for him, his early ambitions to act, his rather prodigious skill at chess, his venturing out of Perth at age 17 to go to Sydney and appear in the television series Roar (but no mention of his being in 10 episodes of Home and Away). While he did make Paws and the crime thriller, Two Hands, he went very quickly to the United States, wanted the lead role in 10 Things I Hate About You and got it.
Mel Gibson tutoring him for The Patriot, a dramatic scene from Monsters Ball, rehearsals for dancing and adjusting for A Knight’s Tale, surfing and skateboarding in California for Lords of Dogtown, Ang Lee commenting on him with scenes from Brokeback Mountain, for the Bob Dylan drama, I’Not There, but, most of all, a more detailed look at his thinking into his role of The Joker in The Dark Night, filming, striking sequences and, finally, his make up in costumes for his last film, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus (but no Brothers Grimm of Casanova).
But, what is interesting for those who know his films is his continual use of camera from his young days, learning how a camera works, lighting, styles of performance, with many excerpts here from these home movies. With his love of music, he actually moved into directing music videos, quite stylish and experimental in their way.
The film wants to celebrate his life and career and so does not dwell on his death. However there is enough information about his intensity and energy, his being wide-awake and not sleeping, this gradually taking its toll and his need for medication to sleep.
Heath Ledger was popular with women, a relationship with Naomi Watts, his relationship with Michelle Williams, starring in Brokeback Mountain, with whom he had a daughter, Matilda.
This is a documentary for those interested in the star himself, his life and career, but also for those who are interested in the film industry, production, stardom, publicity (which Heath Ledger disliked intensely) and the potential for creativity.
Backlot films Released May 11th.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.