In a fiercely competitive industry with meager funds to go around, a group of local filmmakers utilised a unique piece of Australian literature to rise above the pack. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the kind of bold ambition and desire to present a purely Australian vision of event cinema as in Tim Winton’s The Turning.
Created by Robert Connolly (Balibo, The Bank), The Turning is based on Tim Winton’s 2005 short story collection. Each of the 17 short films tackle a different story from the book, and each film is helmed by a different director and cast of actors including Hugo Weaving, David Wenham and Rose Byrne, as well as award-winning animators, emerging filmmakers and a modern circus company.
With such a sprawling format and multitudes of collaborators, each chapter of The Turning offers a completely different experience from the last. However, the film hangs together as a cohesive whole; both through reoccurring characters, and an overarching focus on the unique nature of the Australian landscape.
Stand out segments include Mia Wasikowska’s ‘Long, Clear View’, which belies the fact it’s her first directorial outing with a strong, individual visual style wrapped in wry humour. Snowtown director Justin Kurzel’s ‘Boner McPharlin’s Moll’ hits home with just how talented Kurzel is in harnessing poignant moments from non-professional actors, and in dredging beauty from ignored corners of Australian experience.
It would be churlish to assume that in such a diverse and wide-ranging piece that every short featured will be an unqualified success – ‘Reunion’, featuring Richard Roxburgh and Cate Blanchett, lacks the emotional heft of the other films. Audiences may also be forever divided over ‘Immunity’, where Circa Contemporary Circus interprets one of the stories through physical performance. But the deliberate, unapologetic ambition of The Turning is what makes it such an extraordinary film, and such a welcome one for Australian cinema.
At an introduction to the film at Cinema Nova during the film’s opening weekend, Connolly spoke of how, in our new age of instant media gratification, filmmakers are now attempting to find ways to turn cinema back into an event, an experience that is at its height when shared among audiences in a darkened theatre. The Turning is an event in the truest sense of the word, and the avenues it has the potential to open bodes well for the next chapter in Australian film.
Tim Winton’s The Turning is in cinemas now.