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"The more actors I meet, the more I think that they are bonkers, after starting off quite sane. "  -Actress Jane Horrocks
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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With the Australian commercial premiere of In the Winter Dark in Perth a week before the film’s national release, ANDREW L. URBAN talks to the film’s director, James Bogle, who answers the question his film doesn’t: who killed the animals.

After the screening of the film at the opening night of the 1998 Sydney Film Festival, guests nursed their drinks and aired their opinions on In the Winter Dark. Some found the film a real treat, something different and thought provoking; others didn’t, and wanted to know who killed the animals.

"I wanted to make it more a psychological drama, with things in people’s minds"

Bogle, who was fascinated to sit through the screening, listening to two and a half thousand people squirm in their seats at some of the scenes of killed animals, understands the polarised reactions – and has an answer for the dead animals.

“I come from a rural background,” he says, “and that coloured my approach to this. You do come across dead animals from time to time – that’s nature. Animals kill other animals. It could have been foxes or dogs….”

But Bogle points out the subject was carefully thought through, “and it is nothing like the book, where the older couple find their dog’s head on a chain and no body, suggesting there’s something really hideous out there. But I wanted to make it more a psychological drama, with things in people’s minds. The dead animals ADD UP to something, but there’s nothing really there.” He did manage to boggle the minds of his first audiences, but that was part of the plan.

"I do tend to direct from instinct"

To illustrate his point about the things that go on in the country (which city folk aren’t used to) he cites the example of shooting the scene with several dead sheep. “The day before, there were several real dead sheep in the very same paddock.”
Richard Roxburgh remarked that Bogle was a “subdued, fascinating man…and a bit dark himself.” Bogle says, “Fair enough…I do tend to direct from instinct and with the tonal quality that fits the film, so the actors get a sense of the tone I want through me, personally.”

After four public screenings of the film (at the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane film festivals), Bogle is aware how the film has the ability to polarise people. “The Brisbane screening was the best,” he says. “It was a Saturday night, and the audience really bought into it more than elsewhere, in a collective way. It was exciting for me because I saw it work the way I intended. But I recognise it has the ability to polarise…it’s set up for you to realise you need to engage with the film in an active way. But if you’re not in the right mood, it’ll just give you the shits.”

But Bogle is glad about that; “I feel that you don’t get strong reactions from much on film these days, so I enjoy that (reaction).”

"I’ll become the ‘Winter’ man…."

Bogle has started work on “two or three” new film projects, and has optioned the film rights to Georgia Blain’s novel, Closed for Winter, a dark story of a dysfunctional family; “it’s like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape meets Sweetie,” he says with a grin. But he’s not sure if he wants to keep the title: “PJ Hogan became the ‘Wedding’ man after making Muriel’s Wedding followed by My Best Friend’s Wedding…now I’ll become the ‘Winter’ man….”

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