The Slap

(MA15+) Hopscotch DVD/BD

Just in case you’re the only person in Australia who doesn’t know The Slap’s plot: A young child starts swinging a bat at a backyard barbecue endangering other children. A man steps in and slaps the boy hard across the face. The boy’s mother and father press charges.

The friends and family who were at the barbecue reel from the shock of the slap and the divisions it causes.

In each of the eight episodes in this DVD series a different character comes under scrutiny — exposing their hubris, vulnerability, charm, stupidity or duplicity. Each reveals what they think about the slap, the way children should or shouldn’t be disciplined and whether this incident should have been taken to court.

The slap becomes the prism through which we see multicultural Australia under pressure. People whose ages, ethnicity, sexuality, religious and political affiliation are very different are now interconnected and intermarried. But the racism, sexism and suspicion of “the other” are very much alive and brought to the surface after the slap and cause fractures, even to the oldest alliances.

If The Slap mirrors reality it reveals how self-righteous middle class Australians have become, how puerile and prurient, how morally wanting and eager to cast stones. Be warned: There’s a lot of raunchiness, a lot of drug taking and a lot of selfishness. Hector (Jonathan LaPaglia), for example, is a middle-aged married man messing around with a 17-year-old. He’s hard as nails until he cracks.

Shamira is a 30-something Muslim mother and when her friend Rosie’s four-year-old son Hugo asks who God is she tells him what she believes. Hugo’s father is an atheist and overreacts accusing her of trying to proselytise. “God is just for crippled, brainless people,” he says.

This DVD series is based on Christos Tsiolkas’ international bestseller of the same name. Having read Tsiolkas’ novels before I can imagine there are subtleties in the book that couldn’t be conveyed on screen (although the episode entitled Manolis was fantastic viewing).You might not want these people as friends (slippery emotionally-crippled individuals that they are) but if people like these exist in our society, it could well be time to read the book.

Marjorie Lewis-Jones

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