Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Ray Lawrence (director), Andrew Bovell (writer), Lantana (2001)

The film Lantana (2001), directed by Ray Lawrence and written by Andrew Bovell, is at one level a murder mystery or suspense thriller that involves the investigation and solution of an apparent crime.  However, although the filmmakers handled the elements of the genre with finesse, the murder mystery could be seen as merely providing an excuse for the main purpose of the film, which is to explore the complex and sometimes confronting psychological realties regarding human relationships involving love. 

The film examines four couples − Leon and Sonya, John and Valerie, Pete and Jane, and Nik and Paula − to show how people can be together, close in proximity and intimacy, but never really understand each other.  While exploring the dynamics of relationships, the film looks at how people yearn for meaning and fulfilment, particularly through love, and how trust is crucial for a successful relationship. 

In this context, the film expresses as much through what is said by the characters as through what is unsaid and privately thought by them while they interact with others.  Much of the meaning of the film is to be found in the psychological undercurrents that are evident in each scene as well as in the cutting and positioning of the scenes into a particular sequence so they throw light on the meaning of following or preceding scenes. 

The central character Leon is experiencing a midlife crisis, where he has reached a point where he is critically evaluating his life, especially in regards to love, only to find that he is disappointed with his marriage.  This leads him to have an affair.  Through this character, and other male characters, the director and writer made a concerted effort to convey to the cinema audience that men can have very complex interior lives, something that is sometimes underestimated.  While Leon eventually decides to reconnect with his wife Sonya who still loves him, since he has broken her trust, she will hold back a little, refusing to become vulnerable again.  Consequently, Leon will have a difficult task in rebuilding the relationship but it is a task to which he is committed. 

The filmmakers were also interested in the nature of coincidence, especially how separate lives intersect and collide, because they can do this in real life. However, it should be noted that, at times, the filmmakers became so playful with the notion of coincidence that, if taken too seriously by the cinema audience, it risked undermining the quality of realism that the filmmakers put so much effort into achieving through the use of natural light, location shooting, minimal makeup, one or two shot takes, and other cinematic techniques intended to convey a believable authenticity. 

The film is aimed at a mature audience, with the filmmakers seeming to hope that each member of the cinema audience would find at least some aspect of one of the characters with which they could identify, if not more, and find this experience enlightening. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Lantana meaning, Lantana themes, Lantana analysis, Lantana notes