The film adaptation of Erik Jensen’s award-winning biography of Adam Cullen is a true story, taking place in Sydney and the Blue Mountains between 2008 to 2012.
Erik Jensen was an ambitious nineteen year-old journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald when he was commissioned to write a profile of the painter Adam Cullen, who at forty two was the subject of a career retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
After reading the article, Cullen invited Jensen to write his biography for Thames and Hudson.
Acute Misfortune is the story of the biographer and his subject, told inside the years Jensen spent on and off with the painter. It is the story of their increasingly claustrophobic relationship.
The Cullen that Jensen met was an iconic figure. His quotes were reported across the press. But he was also violent and unpredictable. In turn, Jensen was both ruthless and naive – and in Cullen he found a subject he could not hope to understand. He was overwhelmed by him, desperate to know him and trapped by his own hubris.
Cullen lied to Jensen. He shot him in the leg with a shotgun. He threw him from a motorbike. In time, it became clear that the publishing deal itself was a lie. There was no contract with Thames and Hudson. Jensen continued researching and writing, for four years.
His health failing, Cullen was arrested in possession of multiple illegal firearms and faced a sentence of fifteen years. Spared jail under the mental health act, he had one final interview with his biographer.
These are true events, told almost entirely in real dialogue taken from Erik’s shorthand notebooks and Adam’s own writing and recorded interviews. Acute Misfortune is not a traditional film biography of an artist, but a questioning of that biography and of the circumstances that led to its writing. It is a closely researched film that reveals an iconic artist and an acclaimed journalist in unsparing detail.
It is a film about theft and the commerce of theft, the instability of lies and the consequences of a flawed contract; and about coming through a relationship to find meaning in its wake