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MISSING, THE (1999)

SYNOPSIS:
Monsignor Tommaso (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) is an ambitious priest whose life at the Vatican is interrupted when Susan (Rebecca Frith), the lover he deserted fifteen years earlier in Australia, tells him that their daughter has disappeared. Guided by Aboriginal tribesman Willie (David Ngoombujarra), Tommaso discovers another world in the Australian outback, where mysticism and tribal magic are prevalent.

"Enigmatic with more promise than fulfillment, The Missing is a slightly muddled work that doesn't quite go the distance. Overly derivative, with references from Dead Heart, Black Robe, Kiss the Girls and In Dreams, director/writer Manuela Alberti seems to have tried to fit in too many things, resulting in a film that is a tad heavyhanded. The same can be said for Bruce Smeaton's eclectic score; the wonderful moments are lessened by those that are intrusive. Having said that, there are some very fine qualities, such as Geoffrey Hall's alluring cinematography, intriguing themes and strong performances. In fact the film looks great – the Australian settings have impact. And there's much that will allow the mind to expand and stretch. Opposing faiths and cultures collide in this new Australian film whose essence is about putting the human back into the man. While the title refers to a missing girl whose abduction is the catalyst for the film's journey, also missing is the central character's soul. Becoming a holy man has destroyed his very humanity, losing touch with his own emotions. It's a complex film whose greatest weakness is its lack of cohesion. From the confines of the Vatican's conservative shades to the spiritual enigma of the barren Australian centre, Tommaso's emotional journey is a long and painful one. In the central role, Fabrizio Bentivoglio gives a rich, complex performance that is both understated and revealing, while David Ngoombujarra's strong presence is a striking contrast. We glimpse the Aboriginal culture with its mystical inferences and spiritual themes. We experience the angst of a mother whose daughter is missing, the torment of a priest whose dormant conscience has been awoken. A poignant and thought provoking work raising questions of culture, faith and conscience, The Missing nevertheless misses the vital ingredient of cohesion."
Louise Keller

"The Missing is an adventurous cinematic maze, worthy of a Lars von Trier in some respects, obscure yet itching with promise. One of its biggest failings is the lack of emotional payoff for the audience after the investment demanded. We begin the journey eagerly enough in the ambiance of the Holy City, all dark, recessed, inert, mysterious, closed, suffocatingly pregnant with … something. The contrast of Australia’s outback is immense, but the edit seems contrived to elicit that response, and is not in the service of the story or the characters. There aren’t any yet, for us to connect to (characters). But we go along. As the elements of the story emerge, like jigsaw pieces floating to the surface of a pond (water surfaces are used as imagery in the credits and later), we discover the backstory that launches this plot. But we are never privy to the detail, and we are never involved in the substance of the drama at the heart of the film – the missing girl’s abduction, possible rape, possible death – and impossible family relationships concerning the Monsignor from Rome. The blend of Aboriginal cultural issues with the mystery of the missing child probably carries symbolic significance for the filmmakers but I missed it. I also missed the meaning of Bruce Smeaton’s score, which glues together various film music genres; it can never be accused of being predictable, but somehow that works against it. The final scene is also beyond my understanding, and while some individual moments are interesting, for me, the film as whole doesn’t work."
Andrew L. Urban

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

MISSING, THE (M)
(Aus)

CAST: Fabrizio Bentivoglio, David Ngoombujarra, John Moore, Rebecca Frith, David Franklin, Fiorenzio Fiorentini

DIRECTOR: Manuela Alberti

PRODUCER: Lynda House, Jim Stark

SCRIPT: Manuela Alberti

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Geoffrey Hall

EDITOR: Ken Sallows

MUSIC: Bruce Smeaton

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Christopher Kennedy

RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: November 11, 1999







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