TIM WINTON'S THE TURNING
Made up of 17 linking and overlapping stories that explore the extraordinary turning points in ordinary people's lives in a mosaic portrait of a small coastal community. As characters face second thoughts and regret, relationships irretrievably alter, resolves are made or broken, and lives change direction forever.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In this unique work, a team of collaborators have made a cinematic patchwork quilt that is textured and challenging, unpredictably varied in style and in its approach to Tim Winton's written word. Some of the 17 short films that make up the three hour whole are naturalistic, some are impressionistic and wordless, one is modern dance and one is narrated animation. Like a complex painting, it is a work open to interpretation - by us, the viewers.
While these cinematic differences provide much texture, the underlying observations and explorations of human beings at turning points in their lives provide a throughline. Not that it's an obvious one, and the beautifully produced 40 page 'program' that comes with the price of admission is a valuable guide, especially if you haven't read the book.
But quite frankly, this isn't the kind of film that you need to know every detail of the plot; this is like a poem of many stanzas and varying styles, a poem that is written by different poets, each with a unique view of the material. As I'm fond of telling the participants in my movie course (Movies Now) we all see a movie through the prism of our unique experiences, mindsets and interests. In this case, we experience the central characters through the prisms of the different filmmakers.
Although the central character is Vic Lang, he is played by eight different actors at different ages, some black, some white, some redheads, some brunettes ... His father Bob is played by both Hugo Weaving and Dead Daly Jones. His wife Gail is played by Libby Tanner, Cate Blanchett and Kate Mulvany. But even this prompt is of little help - until after you've seen the film, because the stories and their settings are so scattered around places and times.
This might sound frustrating if you're expecting the expected; but the work creates its own rhythms and moods, and weaves a rich tapestry of human experience that keeps us engaged. That is the film's achievement. It may sound episodic, but the creative embrace of this collection of stories about people connected by family and or friendship, in a small seaside community gives it a resonance.
Crucial to the success of this enterprise are cinematography and music, both provided by a variety of artists. The landscapes and seascapes are powerful characters themselves, and the scores - each unique to its own film - are all exceptional, without exception.
Review by Louise Keller:
The film's striking landscape is like a winding road that links the thoughts, ideas and senses evoked by Tim Winton's stories as themes of regret, guilt and renewal wind their way through the diverse narratives. Robert Connelly, who is one of the 17 directors to collaborate on this ambitious cinematic project, has created an eclectic work whose poetic interpretations and occasionally obtuse content is suitably aligned with Winton's writing style. The characters recur and are played by different actors at different ages. The landscape delivers a sense of space with deserted beaches, dense bushland, arid areas and horizons that seem to extend forever. Some of the narratives resonate more than others: some pierce their target while others could be considered pretentious.
The film's tone coupled by its mostly angst-ridden themes tends to make its 181 minute running time feel even longer than it actually is, but as a whole, there is a sense of considered artistry that has been lovingly put together by a talented team of Australian artists.
Of the 17 stories, there are some that jump out. Dramatically, Claire McCarthy's The Turning is a knockout, marrying themes of domestic abuse, alcoholism and finding religion in an engaging way, delivering a surprisingly humorous ribbon to the package by way of a Jesus snowdome with doves. Rose Byrne, Matt Nable and Miranda Otto are especially good. Director Simon Stone's unexpected Reunion, written by Andrew Upton is made thoroughly enjoyable by Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh and Robyn Nevin's performances. It's a tale about Christmas, peanuts and Champagne and the changing dynamic of an awkward relationship. Hugo Weaving is also a standout in David Wenham's Commission, in which themes of death, estrangement, forgiveness and redemption are addressed.
There are some surprises, one of which is Mia Wasikowska's directing debut of Long, Clear View, a humorous observation of a young freckle-faced, red-haired boy whose obsessive inner world is freshly portrayed. Watch out for a host of young, new talent throughout, who contribute also. Director Yaron Lifschitz's Immunity, written by Circa Contemporary Circus in which bodies express themselves through movement, is an example of one segment that may be too obtuse for some. From the easily digestible to the esoteric, the range of material is diverse with characters that recur albeit in different forms.
The cinematic aspect of the entire film is one of its strongest points with superb production values. While not every segment will cater to the individual taste, there is a consistency of spirit about the project and as an event, complete with an interval and beautifully produced glossy programme from which to refer, The Turning is a wonderful creative piece that will prompt audiences to talk and think.
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FEATURETTE BEHIND THE SCENES
TIM WINTON'S THE TURNING (MA15+)
CAST: Cate Blanchett, Myles Pollard, Rose Byrne, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, Richard Roxburgh, Susie Porter, Harrison Gilbertson, Robyn Nevin, Callan Mulvey, Mirrah Foulkes, Matt Nable, James Fraser, Brenna Harding, Eva Lazzaro, Wayne Blair, Dean Daly Jones
PRODUCER: Robert Connolly, Maggie Miles
DIRECTOR: David Wenham and Robert Connolly and Tony Ayres and Warwick Thornton and Jonathan auf der Heide and Mia Wasikowska and Claire McCarthy and Justin Kurzel and Rhys Graham and Jub Clerc and Shaun Gladwell and Anthony Lucas and Ian Meadows and Stephen Page and Ashlee Page and Marieka Walsh and Simon Stone
SCRIPT: Novel by Tim Winton
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Lesnie, Bonnie Elliott, Geoffrey Simpson, Andrew Commis, Denson Baker, John Brawley, Stefan Duscio, Jeremy Rouse, Miles Rowland, Warwick Thornton, Ellery Ryan, Germain McMicking, Robert Humphreys, John Brawley
EDITOR: Beckett Broda, Dany Cooper, Gabriel Dowrick, Mat Evans, Annabelle Johnson, David Whittaker
MUSIC: Kazumichi Grime, Toby Grime, Elliott Wheeler, Ryan Walsh, Guy Gross, Andrew Lancaster, Robert Woods, Cameron Patrick, Christopher O'Young & Flynn Wheeler, Michael Darren, Iain Grandage, Michael Yezerski, Steve Nieve, Jethro Woodward, Hat Fitz, Ryan Walsh, Steve Francis (after Leontovych), Stephen Rae
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Annie Beauchamp, Elizabeth Mary Moore
RUNNING TIME: 181 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 26, 2013