as a book is a sprawling, diverse account of the life and times of individuals
and families in Western Australia. The writing style differs substantially and
some chapters are much more engaging and memorable than others. Some carry a
huge weight that seeps through the pages while others are throw-away larks.
Winton keeps the tone intact throughout and the themes evident. Connolly, assisted by producer Maggie Miles, has also successfully done this with the film.
The film tells each chapter in original order, only this time each director has
profoundly interpreted Winton's words by imbuing their own vision and
recollection. The result is an interesting mixed bag. Some stories that are
deadly serious come off as whimsical and light-hearted and vice versa. For the
most part, the savage, brutal and rough nature of the book is downplayed and the
conflict in the book is also negated in a lot of the stories.
disliked three of the 17 shorts in this compendium. For an adapted
anthology this is an impressive figure. The mere retention of tone makes this
anthology a cut above most. The tools each filmmaker employs very impressively, although some are over-utilized. Ephemeral music sometimes detracts from
the weight of a scene, or betrays the lightness of a scene; some music simply
does not match the image.
Some stories are wordless; others are a by-the-numbers
wordy drama. Some stories use film techniques and framing in unique ways and
these are the best surprises. Almost every story weaves the past and present
perfectly, capturing the ennui and trauma these fractured figures feel. The
disparity of time, place and space is resplendent. The cinematography is
stunning in every short, particularly Shaun Gladwell's "Family" which has some of the best
underwater shots I have ever seen.
It would be
remiss of me not to mention perhaps the best short story I have ever read. The
adaptation of "Small Mercies" is not a good one and I found myself let down
considerably, as this short's director Rhys Graham chose to focus on the weakest links of the tale. On
the other hand, "Small Mercies" is such an ambitious story it could use a feature
Some tales are
driven by their protagonist; the short aptly titled "The Turning" has a sublime
turn by Rose Byrne. She plays a trailer park mum, struggling in life but living
in ignorance. She meets a wealthier woman whom she befriends, and slowly sees
her own life unravel as she benchmarks the success of others. Byrne is
heart-breaking as a trapped and conflicted wife. She never overplays this card
and delivers a truly powerful performance. This short would be ruined by its
terrible closing shot, but it is more than redeemed by her.
second-half of the film the genre changes slightly and we are introduced to pulpy, gritty,
crime-ridden characters and hard yarns. This is a welcome change from
the introspective drama that hangs over the majority of The Turning. These
shorts include directors Justin Kurzel (Snowtown) and Jonathan auf der Heide (Van Diemen's Land). Their auteur
styles are felt long before the credits roll. I knew immediately when the story
started that it was Kurzel's vision of sound and fury amidst immovable
Actress Mia Wasikowska makes her directorial debut with "Long, Clear View". The short story of this is an utterly disturbing vision of a troubled child. Wasikowska's take is a quirky, funny and cute one and this was a nice change given how grave the actual story in the book ends.
The Turning is clumsily book-ended and has some misfires, but ultimately this ambitiously sky-high work deserves respect and recognition, fusing literature and film fiction effortlessly amidst a flurry of endearing talent.
The Turning recently screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival and is out in Australian cinemas on September 26.