|Festivale online magazine, August, 1998|
In the Winter Dark movie review
|In the Winter Dark|
This year's most stunning narration is delivered by Ray Barrett (Hotel
de Love, Heaven's Burning), who plays an old but likeable grouch Maurice
Stubbs. "I started to have these dreams," he says, "Not mine. Other
people's…like there's some pressure point because they can't…get it out
anymore, can't get it told." Maurice seems condemned to tell his story,
and as we get further into his soul we begin to understand that the only
thing limiting his heart from expressing his true feelings is his own
arrogance. And perhaps it's that arrogance which, bit by bit, pushes us
further away from the true essence of his character.
Something or someone is killing animals in the secluded valley where Stubbs lives. All of the residents of the area - including himself, wife Ida (Brenda Blethyn) and a couple of younger folk - fear for their produce and property, and desperately attempt to seek out and destroy the beast. But as they do so, not only do they realize that the beast is almost impossible to find, but also that in order to find it they have to confront hidden parts of themselves. Exactly what these hidden parts are is never fully understood.
If I could choose any two words to describe this indescribable adoption of Tim Winton's novel, they would be sublime and hollow. Sublime, because of the unmistakable excellence in which the film was shot and hollow, because it tells a story with no real point or ambition to it.
The cast of four main characters shines, with some beautifully interlaced performances and snappy dialogue. Barrett especially is completely believable; there aren't many lead roles nowadays that go to sixty something actors, but he sure makes good use of his material.
More than anything else, this film demonstrates the closeness yet eternal distancing felt between people living with fences both real and superficial around them, and how they solve both the problems of the future as well as the nightmares of the past. In the Winter Dark is a subversive and gripping experience, with a climax that is so wonderfully etched out of nothing from director James Bogle. The presence of an unseen beast brings forth some important questions: is the beast a vicious animal, a maniacal human being or simply a metaphor of fear and desperation? Much to Bogle's credit, we are kept guessing all along, and then when the daunting climax occurs, we guess some more.
But that is ignoring that fact that it is indeed a hollow experience. That's disappointing, considering the amount of vibrant talent and raw Australian enthusiasm which shapes this rich experience. With no real pay off, and no powerful message to leave us shattered, it's still an absorbent and admirable film. And - I can just picture Bogle saying it - to hell with you if you don't like it.
|Due for Australian release September 10, 1998|
|Just the facts:
Title: In the Winter Dark (1998)
|The Players: Brenda Blethyn .... Ida Stubbs |
Ray Barrett .... Maurice Stubbs
Richard Roxburgh .... Murray Jacob
Miranda Otto .... Ronnie
|Official website not known|
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: Jun-1998 Last updated: Aug-1998 Last tested: 3-Jul-2014 Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
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