Love the Beast (2009)



(Digital Film Review)

A little over a decade ago, Aussie film star Eric Bana decided he hadn’t seen a car film that reached him emotionally (I tend to agree) and began to explore the possibility of directing a project of his own. In 2009, he released the culmination of his efforts entitled “Love the Beast.” His initial intention was to explore the connection people have with their prized possessions and since his was his very first car, it was a natural place to start.

If you count yourself a motoring enthusiast or a full-tilt gearhead, you owe it to yourself to see this film (if you haven’t already given the time since its release) I actually ran across it during an iTunes search but it was a purchase I have never regretted.
Eric Bana is an avid auto enthusiast and an amateur racer, or as they say in sports car circles, a gentleman driver. He has participated in a great number of events in his homeland of Australia including the daring Targa Tazmania tarmac rally, one of the last events of its kind in the world.
“Love the Beast” chronicles the story of Eric’s first car, a 1974 Ford Falcon XB Coupe. If you’re not familiar with the Aussie musclecar, think Ford Gran Torino GT and you’ll be close. To be more precise, you can reference the same inspiration that captured Eric Bana as a child and watch the original Mad Max. The ominous, supercharged black coupe Max used on his tour of revenge was a highly modified Falcon XB Coupe.
True to his intentions, Love the Beast is about much more than a car, its about a father helping his son take that first bold step into the world of independence. Over the years, the car became a hub, or Bana’s chosen metaphor, a campfire that brought he and his friends together. Throughout the rise of his career, the car provided the hobby that kept the group of friends in touch. Once resources became available, the band of brothers prepared the car to enter Targa Tazmania and the boyhood dream of racing his car came true. Eventually, Eric became an A-list actor and he reached for a fantasy, to convert his prized possession into a full-on racing machine. The finished build was a true work of art and elevated the car to a hero level few of us will ever experience. After an absence of nearly a decade, he and his friends returned to Targa Tazmania to attack the five-day event with the experience of a seasoned driver and his razor-sharp weapon of choice.
This amazing evolution was being well documented until the spectre of fate took a left turn. One large tree on a sharp downhill curve ended the event and the car, or so it seemed. Suddenly, Eric’s ambition to explore the connection between people and the things they loved opened a new chapter. Heartbroken that his life-long machine may now be scrap, he sought out the sage wisdom of others to shed light on the subject. To explore the psychological connection, Eric interviewed Dr. Phil McGraw and to probe the mystical man-to-machine relationship, he sat down with Jay Leno and Jeremy Clarkson.
The finished product is a film that reaches into his past, shines light on his present and comes to grips with how his car has become so much more than a mechanical device of rubber and steel. The interviews with his friends are genuine and often touching, the moments with his parents exude heartfelt caring and his wife and children quietly speak volumes about how much family matters in his world. A recorded phone message from his daughter after hearing the news about the crash brought tears to my eyes as she hoped he was okay and maybe the car wasn’t smashed too badly because she wanted to have a go around the track with him one day.
Ultimately, the visits with the other celebrities are about the interconnection of the car but in the end, it was about should he pursue trying to repair such a badly damaged machine. The film leaves you with the impression that he will, given the advice offered by Clarkson, “Would you trade your wife in because she was some years old and had a runny nose?”
Then Dr. Phil adding, “Repairing that car will be the cheapest therapy you’ll ever get.”
YouTube evidence dating from the last two years reveal the Beast is once again prowling the streets of Australia and elevated to yet another level. Now the car retains all its musclecar bravado while keeping the homage of its racing glory. The roll bar, gauges and racing buckets remain inside along with its potent engine and aggressive stance, but officially retired from competition, the car is now a street legal showpiece, immortalized as the ultimate personification of what it is at its heart, Eric’s first car.
As much as I love this film and relate to it in many ways, it fills me with regret. I hold great respect and even a touch of envy for those who keep a car like this their whole lives. Thick or thin, poor or flush, they hold tight no matter the circumstance and that is pure love. I’m forced to ask myself if I’ve ever loved any car that much? I know the answer and it hurts to admit but its the one car I let the circumstance of life pull away from me. I wept when I watched it roll away and ever since that day I have tried to build its DNA into so many other cars I’ve owned, trying to catch lightning in a bottle. I’ve come close a couple of times and somehow I let those get away from me too. Now at almost 60 years old, I wonder if I will ever feel that magic again? Is there one more “Beast” for me to love?
If you want to see what real man-and-machine love looks like, what down to the core friendship sounds like, sit down and relish Love the Beast. Eric Bana has given many great performances but this one isn’t acting. This is what reality TV wishes it could be. Bravo Eric!
T. August Green

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