I Am Heath Ledger: a review

“Time and convention meant nothing to him.”

BY Jessica Blackley

Last Friday I went to see I Am Heath Ledger at Innaloo cinemas and watching, sitting in that cinema, I felt like Heath had bestowed on us the biggest gift of all, having the rare privilege and opportunity to have a glimpse into what his complex, beautiful and expressive life was like. Through his eyes.

I appreciated how much of this documentary felt like it was directed and guided by Heath as if he were still with us. Interspersed in the footage shown is himself with a video camera standing in front of mirrors, zooming in and out whilst holding a intense gaze or being filmed by his childhood friend Trevor di Carlo smiling cheekily on the set of movies like The Patriot with Mel Gibson. I admire the directors Adrian Buitenhuis and Derik Murray’s vision of using Heath’s home videos, showing him in character, preparing for roles and then cutting to footage of him in those films. The Type B’s out there will feel understood and at home watching his life. I know I did.

“Time and convention meant nothing to him,” Ben Harper, musician and friend reveals.

You see Heath’s passion for photography lived out every day of his life, always holding a camera, having the profound ability to experience a moment as it was and then documenting it; capturing it for what it truly represented.

Harper says, “Heath was the most alive person and if it wasn’t on the edge, it didn’t interest him.”

His posthumous Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for The Dark Knight as anarchist and psychopath The Joker took him on an intriguing journey of preparation for the role with 6 weeks of research and invention, and took full responsibility for his art, applying his own makeup, and creating that voice. After hearing that Heath was self-conscious in early roles, being told that he was proud and excited of his work in The Dark Knight brought a tear to my eye as he passed away before he even saw the film in full. And what a film it was.

His spirit was so open, and the interviewees for this documentary including ex-partner and friend Naomi Watts, his sisters Kate Ledger and Ashleigh Bell were unanimous in saying how generous and genuine Heath was which was a breath of fresh air to hear. His home in Los Angeles when his career in the states was really rocketing to stardom and critical acclaim, was open to unemployed passionate actors, many also from Australia. He never slept, and the years leading up to his death, he struggled with insomnia, leading to abuse of medication. His friends laughed while explaining he would ring up at 1am to describe a grand new idea and rock up at their doors unannounced at 5 AM to start discussing the formalities. I found it to be respectful that the documentary deliberately avoids delving into his death as the legacy of his life and work is what I believe should be the focus and it definitely is in this film.

I left feeling both frustrated and inspired by life. Why? Because after watching an hour of a half of this one-of-a-kind creature so delicately yet unabashedly inviting us to discover about his life, it just doesn’t make any kind of sense that he is gone.

But he’s not gone really, he’s still living through his films, each one a different colour of the mosaic of his life and his beautiful daughter Matilda.

You can see I Am Heath Ledger at Event Cinemas in Innaloo till the 24th of May. DVD and Blu-Ray will be released next Tuesday

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