Six Hundred Horsepower…And Leaf Springs…Are You Mad? – Love The Beast

9 03 2016

Love The Beast (Eric Bana - 2009)

I love cars. Cars are one of my big interests in my life along with other interests such as Writing, Films, Godzilla, Board Games, Cooking, Music, TV, Video Games, Technology, Trains, Dinosaurs, and Buildings. OK, so I do have a lot of other interests too that include but are not limited to the things I have just mentioned. But, I genuinely like cars. Yes, it’s been tough since the loss of Top Gear, but as a car fan I have still managed to keep up my love for the things. I may not be able to drive (yet), but I always have a keen eye out for cars when I see them out on the street (and wish I had my camera with me). I even have my fantasy car collection that includes cars produced by companies such as Lamborghini, Pagani and Jaguar (cars which I hope to drive one day providing I can get somewhere with my writing career). So with a love of Cars and Movie’s, you may think that I must love it when the two come together? Well Cars and Video Games yes, Cars and Movies though is something I have not tried until I saw Love The Beast.

LTB2

Released in 2009 and Directed by Eric Bana; Love The Beast is a documentary-film (or docu-film if you prefer) about the love affair Hollywood star Eric Bana has for his first car; a Ford XB Falcon Hardtop, which he’s named ‘The Beast’. My own personal knowledge of this film ends before I saw it. I first heard about it on an episode of Top Gear where Eric Bana was the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car. After that I did not really look into it. But then, after I started working in Barnardo’s; I found a copy of it on the shelves. After a few months passed, I finally got it out of curiosity and thought I would give it a go; which I did.

Eric Bana

Love the Beast begins with Eric Bana talking about his youth, and especially about watching Australian Motor Racing. He remembers seeing something taking place at the Bathurst motor race involving a couple of Ford Falcon’s. From that moment on he was in love with that kind of car. So much so that when he was about 15, he persuaded his Dad to buy one for him. Over the next several years, Bana and his friends work long periods to bring the car back to its original glory. Eventually, Bana and his friends enter the Falcon into the Targa Tasmania: a motor race that funnily enough happened to take place in Tasmania. Hoping to enter every year from his first appearance in 1996, fate gets the better of Bana and he becomes an international Hollywood star.

LTB1

11 Years after his first Targa, Bana decides to enter his Falcon into the 2007 race, after rebuilding his Falcon yet again. He enters with some childhood friends, one of them being his navigator. At first they struggle with the newly built vehicle, but soon they manage to pick up the pace. Things eventually lead to tragedy however, as on the 4th race of the 5 day event, they crash into a tree. Though a little shaken up, Bana has to leave the race and get back to his day job, by attending a New York movie premier and appearing on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Upon returning to Australia, he gets to have a proper look at his badly damaged vehicle. From then on it becomes a question as where to go with it next, eventually ending with him covering it up in a sheet in his garage. The film then ends with the suggestion that he will one day return to it and fix it again.

Love the Beast is a film I find hard to really review, this could be though do it being a Documentary film rather than a fictional piece of work, a genre I have only done one other film review before. I suppose, a great place to start would be to talk about what it is. Love The Beast is a film about cars, a documentary about cars specifically. It is a film about a man’s desire to enter a car he loves into a motor race. Now if this was an ordinary man no-one had ever heard of before, it would be a different story. In this instance however it is actor Eric Bana whose movie output includes the film’s Troy and Hulk. In this case it is quite different, as it becomes a film not where he is playing a character, but more one where he is talking about his social and personal life. From the outset, the film talks about his growing up and what part of his young life the car meant to him. The film then goes in the various directions a documentary would go to cover all of its bases. It goes into talking about the Targa Tasmania, the Falcon and its appearance in the original Mad Max; it then goes into talking about Bana’s father’s love affair with his own Ford Thunderbolt. Then in the background of the film, there is a host of interviews of Car Enthusiasts and celebrities including Jeremy Clarkson, Jay Leno and Dr. Phil McGraw. It then talks about the Targa in more detail and includes the style of cars used in the race series and the difference between new super cars, and old muscle classics. It is a film that is definitely about cars and man’s love affair with them. Not in the form of them as tools driven by people who consider them nothing more as tins on wheels, but as symbols that mean something to people growing up and how they become a metaphorical camp fire for people now grown up and how they still need these symbols in order to be themselves.

Mad Max (Village Roadshow Pictures - 1979)

That is what the film is trying to present, well aims to achieve, because on the whole it has a lot of issues. Love The Beast has narration off-screen frequently throughout, but from the start this comes with a level of near boredom. Bana himself I felt is not all that good a narrator, or at least not yet. As he spoke from the beginning away from the camera, it was like he was reading from a pre-prepared script written by someone else. It was not like he was telling a story, nor like he was informing the audience about his past experience. When he is in front of the camera, being in the scene and talking normally/casually with everyone else, his soul and passion for what he loves comes out to the full, but as a voice over it is not really all that believable and can be pretty boring. Bana presents himself as a more straight-up kind of guy; but the way he narrates this neither suggests nor promotes his love and interest for his car.

Ford XB Falcon Hardtop 2

When I first started to watch this film I was constantly near blacking out, like there was not much going on. I like cars, love them in fact. Before lasts years consequences ended it for good; Top Gear was my Favourite show. My Favourite car for many years now has been the Pagani Zonda F. I like cars, but this, a film about cars, is something I am finding hard to like in the least bit. It’s a real case of the Marmite belief. Marmite, some kind of ingredient/spread that you can do edible stuff with has always had the moniker of either you love it or hate it. Well, Love The Beast is something like that, and I myself am not too sure on where I personally stand with it. As a film, it’s more of an informative piece. Something you would watch on an afternoon if there was nothing good on tele, not on a Friday or Saturday evening.

But then, when you reach the 40/50 minutes in marker everything changes. It goes from a half attempted documentary on entering a racing series to an understanding of what this car means to Bana. It’s a different yet interesting point of view of a well-known person in the public light. Instead of gossiping on every element of his personal life with subjects like food, weight, clothes, relationships and all the other garbage gossip; Love The Beast becomes a deep and moving insight into a true passion of his, his car. Up till now it has been a basic documentary with nothing much really to focus on. No theme for the documentary to follow or look into specifically, but then as it finally begins to gain pace, we discover that for Bana, the car is less a tin on wheels tool/contraption for the masses; but an icon of his youth and an important part of his history. It provides him with personal drive (pun not intended). This passion ultimately leads however to tragedy, as while everything was going well at first; in a heartbeat it ends in a collision which brings the star to a halt as fast as the crash itself. At first I thought this sounded like it was planned, but to this though comes the films real story and eventual meaning.

LTB3

The film, the events, the interviews; it’s not about Bana learning about the car or its place in automotive history, nor is it about a man entering a race in the hope of achieving sporting glory. You realise that all along from the beginning, that what it’s all really been about is this titan of Hollywood coming to terms with the crash and the damage sustained to his beloved Ford XB Falcon Hardtop. Something that is more of a childhood friend severely injured/disfigured rather than it simply being a gash to a tin with wheels on it. From the moment he sees it in proper in a garage, it changes him, and he goes and talks to the celebrities to talk to them and ask them for some form of guidance or hoping that they may shed light on what has happened and why it has happened. For Bana, it’s less a documentary or film, it’s actually therapy. This is the moment where the film goes from its original aim to a personal struggle. This is true reality and one that is felt deeply. Love The Beast’s true meaning therefore is one of how much symbols and icon’s mean to us personally in our lives from a young age and how these things can hurt when they take a hit…..no matter how old we are.

Ford XB Falcon Hardtop

Ok, I can see I may have gone off track (pun not intended again) with this film as a whole, but in effect, that’s what this film is about, one man’s passion for his car and what it means to him. Now that is not to say the film did not have its issues, but from these issues comes a film (in a similar style to the BMW M5 review on Top Gear) that provides something different. I like documentary films. I really do, and while this one did struggle to begin with from this mediocre/weak start; it became a really passionate story. Add to this the inclusion of top car personalities like Clarkson in particular, and you get this really interesting creation. Yes, there are better things to watch on a Friday and Saturday night slumped in front of the TV, but if you love cars as much as me, and carry a passion for the true monsters of automotive design and engineering; then you will want to see this film.

GENEPOOL

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