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The Countryman

average rating is 3 out of 5


Alasdair MacRae


Posted on:

Jan 14, 2023

Film Reviews
The Countryman
Directed by:
Andy Kastelic
Written by:
Andy Kastelic
Andy Kastelic, Marie Wagenman, Vic Browder

Envisioned as a slice of post-war rural Americana, and captured in crisp black-and-white cinematography, The Countryman is an unconventional and strained Christian allegory.


A dramatic murder opens the film, a farmer (Jack Forcinito) slain before his granddaughter’s eyes, pitchforked by a neighbour and rival (Vic Browder). A stylish shot of the pitchfork swinging like a bell tolling sets the mood. As the young girl rushes to his side, the victim’s spirit rises up and takes the place of the film’s narrator. He wanders the open landscape delivering a fast-paced walk-and-talk-to-camera spiel, “We all got dirt in our pockets – you, me, even Clark Gable – difference is we farming folk make the most of it”. An obscure interlude of tonal whiplash as what is possibly an excerpt from an ad for cranberry juice rolls into a story of poverty and hardship breeding desperation, betrayals, and bitter feuds amongst a farming community, leading up until the moment a fair-faced, open-hearted stranger (Andy Kastelic) strolls into town offering cash in exchange for the townspeople’s hatred.


After an early hesitance to believe in the stranger’s unusual proposition most of the villagers are willing to accept it after a demonstration. Most, save a twelve-year-old girl (Marie Wagenman), the granddaughter of the murdered farmer. A darkness seems to preclude her from accepting in the stranger’s salvation, which haunts not only her, but her opposite number in the murderer. Paradoxically she keeps the stranger close but refuses to relinquish her hatred. As the battle between love and hate persists an indulgence in the pathetic fallacy of storm clouds rolling in is too hard to resist. The contrast in the monochromatic images increases and the blacks darken, the atmosphere of the film gets sucked into the storm, setting up a chiaroscuro climactic confrontation.


Whilst the tone of The Countryman may be inconsistent, and it may have an unfortunate tendency to lean into cliché whether it be in its representation of a farmer’s life, or its decision to revolve around a young girl and a Christ-like figure, there is great beauty to be found in such an operatic tale.

About the Film Critic
Alasdair MacRae
Alasdair MacRae
Short Film
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