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Film / He Died with a Felafel in His Hand

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A search for love, meaning and bathroom solitude, with a lot of random shit happening in the meantime.

He Died with a Felafel in His Hand (2001) is a flamboyantly pointless housemates-from-hell story, based on a book by John Birmingham. Despite mediocre circulation, it's become something of a Cult Classic among unemployed yobbos, leftist uni students, and anybody else who's experienced the joys of shared-house living in Australia. Memorable mainly for that scene in backyard Brisbane, plus a kick-arse soundtrack full of Australian artists and snappy writing that makes it the most quotable text since Oscar Wilde.

Stars Noah Taylor, Emily Hamilton and, for some reason, Romane Bohringer. And while most of the people described in the page quote show up in the film, all of them show up in the book.


This movie has examples of:

  • Affably Evil: One of the cops who shake them down in Melbourne.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: One of the first shots in the movie is at the Brisbane house, where Taylor plays golf with a cane toad. Golf ain't the half of it; cane toads have reached plague proportions and everyone turns a blind eye when it comes to how you kill them...
  • All There in the Manual: A lot of the film's dialogue and more obscure moments are lifted directly from the book. Reading the book isn't required to understand the film, but it does make a lot of things make a lot more sense, inasmuch as the film can make sense at all.
  • Arc Words: Somehow everyone Danny's ever lived with has met his mum. (Presumably this is how they keep finding him).
    Everyone: You really should ring your mum. She's worried about you.
    • "Black is the ultimate... black eclipses everything".
    • Plagues get mentioned a few times.
  • Asian Airhead: Satomi, aka. 'Tiger Girl,' although it might just be that her English doesn't extend much further than, 'I move in now, yes?'
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  • Attention Whore: Nina the wannabe actress.
  • Bath Suicide: Sam tries it, after she and Anya break up and Danny turns her down.
  • Beige Prose: Danny writes possibly the least arousing porn ever written. For Penthouse.
    Danny: Enter me, enter me, she gasped...
  • The Bet: Played straight when the guys go ga-ga over Anya.
  • Black Comedy: Oh yeah. The pagans sacrificing Milo is played for laughs, as is the cops threatening Danny and co. Very few serious scenes aren't played for black comedy, but two of them (Flip's death and Sam's suicide attempt) are immediately subjected to Mood Whiplash by some very funny lines directly afterwards.
  • Bookends: Flip's corpse shot. It's a lot more graphic the second time. Also:
    Danny: Wanna get married?
    Sam: Can't. Gotta go out later.
  • Brainy Brunette: Sam.
  • Brick Joke: Sam mentions to the Brisbane Goons that using a mobile phone can cause brain tumours. As they leave, they discuss getting phone headsets, with one arguing the pros (no brain tumours) and the other the cons (looking like a receptionist). When they return during the neo-pagan incident, they're both wearing headsets.
  • Call-Back: Danny's story ends with the protagonist waking up in a cold sweat and finding that his hand is missing. In the Melbourne part of the movie, Danny wakes up in a cold sweat, with one hand under the pillow. (He's fine, obviously, this isn't that kind of movie.)
  • Camp Gay: Dirk tries to be this after coming out.
  • Catchphrase: Danny has a habit of headdesking and sighing "Fuck..." whenever someone's at the door.
    • Anya, who evidently doesn't have English as a first language, and so she says 'how you say' before trying to get the right word.
  • Chekhov's Yarn: Danny's masturbation story. It starts off as an off-the-cuff Tall Tale and ends up getting printed in Penthouse.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Taylor before his 'epiphany' concerning prostitutes. He plays golf with cane toads, sets the washing-up on fire, calls for backup from neo-Nazis and shoots Danny in the head with a water pistol and declares, 'If this were for real, you'd be dog meat by now.'
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The entire script. Truth in Television because it was made in Australia.
  • Composite Character: Just about everyone in the film is a blend of certain characters from the book, occasionally with a new name.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Iain the Socialist believes that the government purposely makes milk bottles a few centimetres too short to hold dried fettucine.
  • Darker and Edgier: All of the Melbourne scenes, in contrast to the Brisbane and Sydney parts. All three parts have their share of black comedy, but the Melbourne scenes have a higher ratio of dark stuff to comedy. Everything in the Brisbane scenes is treated as funny, no matter how dark, and while Sydney has a few serious moments it ends on a very hopeful note, but Melbourne is just straight up depressing, with a (very welcome, but small) side of comedy.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sam, though Danny gets a few moments in too.
  • Destructo-Nookie: Sam and Anya manage to break a lamp.
  • Dirty Cop: Apparently Melbourne's finest work for the local casino. Almost Truth in Television at the time…
    Detective: We're the police, sweetheart. Your civil liberties are about to be violated.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The guys' collective IQ drops sharply around Anya. Milo almost becomes Too Dumb to Live.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Everyone gets one. Danny likes to sit around and ignore/watch the chaos while playing 'California Dreaming'; Taylor likes to play cane toad golf and pretends to be a veteran of the Vietnam War; Sam frequently comments on how weird the guys are acting but doesn't seem to mind being there, Anya resembles an alien who got dropped onto a weird planet but does her best to adapt; Flip is dumb but sweet and well-intentioned; Milo is cocky and thinks he can achieve anything (while Otis just follows him around)... and that's just the Brisbane housemates.
  • Everybody Smokes: Oh boy.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier if French: Anya's whole appeal. It also makes her sound more sophisticated when she starts to use sci-fi references as metaphors
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The opening shot is of a stiff, cadaverous arm holding up a felafel.
  • Foreshadowing: Twenty-five grand for a Penthouse piece...
  • Foregone Conclusion: Flip dies. With a felafel in his hand.
  • Funny Background Event: Taylor kneading dough while Anya talks about her and Sam breaking up (again), Nina bitches about people on TV and Uptight talks about how 'fit' the actors are. All at the same time.
  • Granola Guy: Iain, from Melbourne, complete with a rant about how milk bottles are an inch too short to hold dried fettuccine. He's actually a rare example in that not only is he male, he's also younger than 30.
  • Gut Punch/Wham Scene: The movie is very light-hearted, up until Sam tries to kill herself. After that, things go very dark very quickly, and though the movie ends on a hopeful note, that's really the moment when everything starts going downhill.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: When Cashmere Sweater Babe and her Flat-Headed Rugby Type hookup, they end up going at it like lamb chops on the front lawn.
    Danny: Ooh, ouch.
    Taylor: Nasty.
    Danny: That's gotta hurt.
    Otis: That's a bad game, dude. Brings out the worst in people.
  • The Heart: Danny, given that Taylor, Flip, Sam and Anya follow him from house to house.
  • Heroic BSoD: Danny has one after Flip dies.
  • Hidden Depths / I Did What I Had to Do: One of the cops in Melbourne apparently seems to think that police brutality plays a major part in the upkeep of society, and waxes on about it for a few minutes.
  • Hipster: Iain, with his eating healthy food, rant about the government doing everyone down and talk about communism.
  • Ho Yay: Invoked. Milo seems a bit too upset when everyone starts reading homoerotic Subtext into his favourite Rated M for Manly movie, Reservoir Dogs. Not to mention he seems suspiciously attached to Otis.
    Flip: What about that bit where they're all pointing their guns at each other?
    Milo: What about it?
    Flip: Well, maybe it's not really their guns they're pointing...
  • Homage Shot: Neo-Nazis are brought in to deal with the rent situation. The youngest of them breaks into Tomorrow Belongs To Me, for some reason, and the neo-pagans join in for a nice campfire sing-along. Doubles as a parody, obviously.
    • When the neo-Nazis show up, Taylor (wearing camo face paint and armed with an M16 water-pistol) says, "I had to call in the cavalry to neutralise the rent situation. With extreme prejudice." While The Ride Of The Valkyries swells.
    • There is no way Danny looks that much like Nick Cave by accident.
  • Human Sacrifice: The pagans and Anya try to sacrifice Milo by tying him to a clothesline, which they then set on fire. Weirdly (or possibly just for more comedic purposes), they try to burn him alive instead of doing what Anya told Danny about earlier- i.e., bleeding him to death and pouring the blood on the ground so the earth could bear fruit.
  • Identical Stranger: A real-life version: Romane Bohringer looks amazingly like Cote de Pablo in this movie.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: The incompetent Melbourne detective accidentally shoots Iain in the shoulder. To be fair, Iain was trying to grab it at the time, but the other detective had told him repeatedly:
    "Put it away, Russ."
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Sammy and Anya in the movie, but it's pretty much background music in the book. John even admits that he could 'listen to his housemates going at it all day' and used to position his chair at the point in the house of maximum creaking and groaning.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Danny wakes up in time to stop Sam killing herself.
  • Land Down Under: As with The Castle, Australia's own version of the trope: Sydney is horribly plastic and full of anal retentives, Melbourne is a town of corrupt cops where it's always raining miserably, and Brisbane is overrun with cane toads.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: It's not outright stated, but very heavily implied that Nina was the one behind 'Robert J Corcoran', and she let Danny be falsely blamed. At the end of the movie, Danny pays off his debts and walks away a free man as the police go after Nina and Anya's taxi.
  • Left the Background Music On: When Sammy tries to kill herself, she puts on Nick Cave's "The Mercy Seat", which wakes Danny up. He turns it off, but when he discovers what's going on, the music comes back on.
    • The beginning has "Golden Brown" by the Stranglers playing very loudly, prompting Danny to go outside and demand that Flip turn it off. Turns out that Flip was watching Rage, and he died while watching it.
  • Leitmotif: Danny plays "California Dreaming" by The Mamas And The Papas every time he moves into a new house. It's also the song that plays over the ending and credits, as he and Sammy walk away from everyone and everything.
    • Flip's death and the immediate aftermath has "Golden Brown" by the Stranglers.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Each new location adds some more people, not just new housemates, but also new bit characters.
  • Meaningless Meaningful Words: About half of Danny's lines, mimicking the faux-philosophical ramblings of Australia's semi-educated.
  • No Name Given: You can count the number of people with full names in this movie on one hand- and several of the first names aren't even hinted at. For example, Milo and Otis' names are never stated, Iain's name is only given at the very end of the Melbourne segment, and of the other housemates, only Danny gets a last name (Kirkhope).
  • Object Ceiling Cling: 'It's a beef patty. Been up there for years.'
  • Oh, Crap!: Danny has one after he hears Sammy in the bathroom at 3 AM, looks down and sees water coming out from under the door.
    • And in the beginning, when he finds Flip dead.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The neo-pagans in the backyard. Although it's actually a list of goddesses from every culture imaginable.
  • One Scene, Two Monologues: Frequently. These people don't communicate well.
  • Only Sane Man: Arguably, Danny. Despite spending virtually the whole movie in a Heroic BSoD, he's more or less the Only Sane Man by elimination.
  • Rant-Inducing Slight: Dirk's attempt to pick a fight with Danny about everyone's casual acceptance of his homosexuality by asserting that Danny is a homophobe backfires on him. Badly. It results in the page quote.
  • Rated M for Manly: Milo's favourite movie, the 'bonding' session over Elvis' cover of 'Always On My Mind,' cane toad golf, and everything Taylor does until his Melbourne brothel-crawl.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Milo's 'condoms with Aboriginal tribal paintings on them' spiel. That he and Otis were stoned at the time from a home-made bucket bong isn't really an excuse.
  • Running Gag: Danny cannot get any time to himself.
    • "Berserk, gaga, talking in tongues..."
    • Everybody when they show up at the door telling Danny to call his mum
  • Sacred Hospitality: They serve tea and biscuits to the Brisbane landlord's goon. While he's threatening them.
    Goon: Are any of you shitheads related to a copper or a poli? *Beat* (back to phone) Looks like we're in the clear. *sip* Damn good tea.
    Sammy: It's chai, from India. Biscuit?
    Goon: No, thank you.
    • Which later gets inverted when they're doing the same to the policewoman looking for Mr Corcoran, except it's Danny doing the offering while Sam and Anya fight in the background.
  • Serious Business: Writing. And Nick Cave. And neo-pagan moon festivals...
  • Sex for Solace: After she and Anya break up, Sam tries to invoke this with Danny, claiming that she needs to feel loved. When Danny refuses her, she tries to commit suicide. It's actually double subverted because after all of that, they have sex anyway.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Parodied with Taylor. Not only is he not the American Vietnam veteran he acts like, he's not even American (his accent switches halfway through).
    • Danny is a cross between this and The Stoic. He spends most of the movie either bored, annoyed or in a state of exasperation, until he has his BSOD at the end.
  • Ship Tease: Between Danny and Anya. Nothing really happens between them, though.
  • The Stoner: Milo, both in the scene where he and Otis toke up with the bucket bong, and in the 'Always On My Mind' singalong.
  • Straw Feminist: Sam, at first. Anya as well, of the neopagan "we were all better off when the year had 13 moonths and we engaged in human sacrifice, before patriarchal domination" variety
  • Title Drop: Near the end, written on a wall Apocalypse Now-style. In the book it's the very first line.
  • Transparent Closet: Dirk. He's legitimately offended that no one was surprised when he came out.
  • Trash of the Titans: Ho-ly shit. Some of the filth mentioned in the book's opening chapter has to be read to be disbelieved.
    A rat died in the living room at King Street and we didn't know. There was at least six inches of compacted rubbish between our feet and the floor. Old Ratty must have crawled in there and died of pleasure. A visitor uncovered him while groping around for a beer.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The movie is a very condensed version of the book, which itself is a collection of John's actual experiences in sharehousing. Definitely not a tale for those who wish to retain their faith in humanity.
  • Welcome to Hell: Sydney, during the segment 'Hell is other people' (which could have been the movie's other title).
    Danny: Welcome to hell.
    Sam: At least it's warm.
  • World of Chaos: Neo-pagan cultists want to sacrifice one of the housemates over a backyard fire for the winter solstice, and the landlord's goons are going to start breaking limbs if they don't get their money. The other housemates deal with it by calling in the local skinheads, who ride dirt bikes through the house, cut the back of the house off with a chainsaw and then stand around and sing "Auld Lang Syne" with the pagans. Just another Thursday night in Bris-Vegas...