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Ewan Jackman reviews Nude Tuesday at this year’s Sydney Film Festival
It’s impossible to prepare yourself before watching this hilariously absurd comedy. Jumping from one joke to another, Nude Tuesday (2022) holds nothing back with numerous hyper-sexual and lewd punchlines from beginning to end.
The film follows the well-trodden tale of a couple, Bruno (Damon Herriman) and Laura (Jackie van Beek), who are struggling with their failing marriage and, on the advice of their family at dinner, decide to take a break at a new-age retreat. As the married couple attempt to salvage what remains of their relationship through the many left-field activities and teachings, they encounter interesting and obscene characters and experiences in this secluded retreat. Where this story separates itself from the many canonical iterations of this narrative is the magical combination of Gibberish dialogue and post-production subtitling.
The initial script was written in English by Jackie van Beek and was used by actors whilst rehearsing scenes. Then, when filming began, a dialect coach was brought in to teach the cast several foundational sounds, reminiscent of a Scandinavian dialect. Each scene from the original English script was then filmed with the actors speaking in improvised Gibberish.
After filming had concluded, the film was edited and the final picture was locked so that the footage could not be changed as British comedian, Julia Davis, devised the subtitles for the on-screen Gibberish nonsense. Julia Davis was given no guidance or information about the original English script, and subsequently produced the subtitled dialogue based on only the locked footage.
After the world premiere on the 10th of July, van Beek revealed the use of Gibberish was born from the central theme of miscommunication and misunderstanding in relationships. This brilliantly deliberate juxtaposition between what is being said and what was meant to be said creates a level of chaos and unpredictability in the film.
At first the Gibberish sticks out like a sore thumb, but once the audience is welcomed into the alternative couples therapy, you begin to feel as though you are merely watching a foreign film rather than improvised nonsense. The unique filming approach to Nude Tuesday is perhaps what makes this film a one-of-a-kind experience and a truly original comedic masterpiece.
The film sticks true to its linguistic origins with several covers to well-known songs, only this time in Gibberish. This creates an eerie sense of the familiar yet not quite our reality as the characters move into a secluded environment with an absurd community. Adding a tribal tone to these imperfect ensemble renditions further highlights the spiritual journey of Bruno and Laura as they uncover the truth about themselves and each other.
Laura is introduced to us as a highly-strung, working mother who has lost the spark in her relationship with Bruno. Jackie van Beek perfectly establishes this tight-lipped version of Laura, constructed in the stressful environment of her 9 to 5 family life. However, she subtly reveals her character’s internal struggle to break free and enjoy the natural freedoms of life once again.
Damon Herriman, playing Laura’s husband Bruno, captures the shell of a hollow man worn down by his monotonous lifestyle. Sexually frustrated in a failing marriage, Bruno fails to sell taps and faucets, further disappointing himself and Laura. Once he arrives at the secluded retreat, Herriman embraces the absurdity and unleashes an enlightened Bruno as wild as the mushrooms found while hiking.
Jemaine Clement embodies the absurd heart of his left-field retreat and the tone of the film itself. Starring as the enthusiastic sex guru, Bjorg, Clement’s charisma beautifully delivers obscene, vulgar and, at times, adulterous actions. Bjorg’s sexual promiscuity challenges the desires and values of Laura and Bruno’s relationship as he attempts to draw out their inner lusts through extreme alternative methods.
The ensemble cast of fellow couples and retreat staff combine in a hilarious chorus of misfits and vagabonds. Their brutal honesty and a lack of sexual embarrassment bring forward punchline after punchline whilst Laura and Bruno spin out of control in the foreground.
If you’re looking for a feel-good ride that will leave you laughing after the final credits, then Nude Tuesday is a must see. Whilst you may have unfortunately missed this film in theatres, the movie was produced by Stan and will likely be available for streaming soon.