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Monthly Archives: October 2011

King of Devil’s Island

The violence of power and the power of violence are both explored beautifully in King of Devil’s Island. A true story, based on events occurring in 1915 at Bastøy Island in the Fjord of Oslo; a detention centre for ‘maladjusted boys’, as the subtitles tell us.

Maladjusted is somewhat ironic in the context of this story. The boys in the film are remarkably well-adjusted, and have as keen a sense of right and wrong as their ‘protectors’. Each of the film’s protagonists fail at some point to act according to their convictions, as do their protectors, who subtly develop into the story’s antagonists.

What I like most about this film is that although it casts certain historical figures clearly in the role of antagonists, all of them are fully developed, and all but one are depicted with a degree of empathy. Just like the protagonists, they’re pawns in a bloody game of chess being played by rulers as remote and inviolate as kings. Violence, in this context, is the inevitable response.

I can hardly put into words how much I like this film. Beautifully shot in the fjords, with precise timing matching the mood of the film to the development of the winter and remarkable performances from a very talented cast. This film is perfect.

You may have missed your chance to see this as part of the 2011 Canberra International Film Festival; for a taste, the trailer is here.

 
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Posted by on Sunday, 30 October 2011 in Film, Norwegian Film

 

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Toomelah

Toomelah is a particularly interesting film, if not especially engaging. Writer and Director Ivan Sen went into the New South Welsh township of Toomelah, which began life as an Aboriginal mission, and filmed this story with the local community performing the roles. As characters and performers, they offer a lot. They are, in a sense, playing themselves, and although the story is fictitious, the setting and the circumstances of life in Toomelah is very real.

After the screening at Arc, Sen described the experience of making the film in this community. He went alone, with no film crew, in order to get unhindered access to the community, and to allow the performers more scope to ignore the camera. The effect is remarkable; these characters come to life, despite having just about the thinnest plot I’ve ever seen. There was one point while watching the film when I wondered whether the story was actually just Sen following Daniel Connors around and filming his real life.

The reality, though, is that this is a fictitious story about a real community, played by the people of the community. The slowness of life in this community is, presumably, captured faithfully, but unfortunately I don’t think this verisimilitude does the film any favours. It asks a lot of the audience to keep watching, and while I think this is often acceptable, it is more effective when the story is more engaging.

I think it is particularly important that we tell the story of diverse Aboriginal communities, but I still think these stories need to be told in the dominant storytelling form of our society. While Toomelah is a film worthy of our attention, I doubt it will get much. With a plot arc this slow, it takes pre-established empathy with the characters for an audient to sit through it.

So I find it sad that I don’t think Toomelah will get much attention. It is worthy of every Australian’s attention, but its interest lies in the way it was made and what it offers as a picture of life in this community, rather than being intrinsic to the film.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 29 October 2011 in Australian Film, Film

 

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The Dark Side of Midnight

Political turmoil is an incubator of dramatic writing, and historical plays about moments of political change are relatively common. Less common are plays set in moments of political turmoil that are about the lives of people who lived through these moments, rather than about the political agitators who created them. This is a shame, as Tessa Bremner’s play The Dark Side of Midnight demonstrates with its very heartfelt story about British colonists living through the Partition of India…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 28 October 2011 in Australian Stage, Free Rain Theatre, Pure Theatre

 

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Four Flat Whites in Italy

I suspect this may be the first time I’ve seen a New Zealand play on an Australian stage. It’s a novel irony to hear actors we know to be Australian making disparaging remarks about Australia in a New Zealand accent!

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

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The Hunter

Odd that I should pass the small band of faithful in Martin Place for ‘Occupy Sydney’ on my way to see The Hunter. Odd, because this film is an interesting take on the idea of a big faceless corporation hiring a hit-man to take care of some business. Only the victim in this case is not to be just one person but an entire species, and they don’t just want it dead, they want its DNA. Creepy, yes; and a great premise for a film. What a shame the script wasn’t better developed.

The Hunter doesn’t disappoint entirely. A strong storyline and some very interesting relationships develop. Despite some unfortunate stereotypes there is some genuine complexity in the fabric of the film, but The Hunter lacks any real character development. Now, I’m all in favour of plot-driven stories, but the plot in this film doesn’t move fast enough to carry well without stronger characters. The hunter himself, played by Willem Defoe, is two-dimensional and lacks any back story to justify his quiet demeanour. By the time he reaches the climax, we still don’t really know him. The vaguely heroine-like Lucy Armstrong doesn’t quite make it to romantic lead, but despite the lack of script development, Frances O’Connor does a great job of bringing her to life. Apart from the very engaging children, played by Morgana Davies and Finn Woodlock, the rest of the cast are just plot devices.

I still think there’s a lot to love about The Hunter. Tasmania’s wilderness is a landscape that was made to be a film set, much like Utah’s Monument Valley was, except the Tasmanian bush has mood swings. Really, what the characters lack is almost made up for by the bush, which certainly changes its mood more often than Willem Defoe does. I’m not just being flippant; the bush genuinely works for this film, and the cinematography is exceptional, which makes the poor script all that much more disappointing.

This one’s not worthy of a cinema screen, but it’s worth seeing when it comes to TV. And I really did like it.

 
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Posted by on Monday, 17 October 2011 in Australian Film, Film, Porchlight Films

 

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Love Song

The warmth of John Kolvenbach’s play Love Song is brought to the fore in Centrepiece‘s production, which opened at The Q in Queanbeyan tonight. This play brings a vibrancy to themes that can be cold and stark, drawing humour and humanity into some otherwise dark places.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

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MP

As a playwright who calls Canberra home, the thought of writing a play about politicians or politics has crossed my mind a few times. I’ve even started once, before giving up in disgust at the depressing result of that folly. I’m glad, though, that Alana Valentine gave it a better shot when she sat down to write MP.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
 

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