Turning heads

Haunting new film brings Tim Winton’s The Turning to cinematic life, discovers Dominic Corry

Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh in 'The Turning'.
Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh in 'The Turning'.

We hear a lot about "event" movies these days, but the criteria for being one is generally defined by leaps forward in filmmaking technology or theatrical presentation. Tim Winton's The Turning, which screens for a limited two-week engagement in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch from November 7, is refreshing in that it qualifies as an event movie by virtue of the boldness of its storytelling.

Based on acclaimed Australian novelist Tim Winton's multi-award winning collection of short stories first published in 2005, this unique film gathered together 17 directors from various artistic disciplines to adapt one story each.

The resulting three-hour movie (which is screening with an intermission) is a hauntingly beautiful examination of the intersection of the mundane and the profound in every day life. Characters recurr from one story to the next, but are never played by the same actor twice.

There was no pressure for the 17 films to correlate stylistically or even tonally, but they all coalesce in a manner that betrays their shared foundation - which happens to be the mind of one of Australia's most well-regarded writers.

Recurring themes gradually emerge as the film gracefully and repeatedly taps into the lyricism that is feels so natural to Australian cinema.

A variety of familiar Aussie talents show up - Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) and Richard Roxburgh (Moulin Rouge!) star in the suburbia-set Reunion, which was written by Blanchett's husband Andrew Upton. This remarkable short is comprised of three extra-long takes, requiring some deft choreography. Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class) and Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings) star in The Turning, which follows a battered wife (Byrne) who sees hope for her future in a burgeoning friendship with a new neighbour (Otto).

Hugo Weaving (The Matrix and Transformers) gives one of the most quietly powerful performances of his career as a recovering alcoholic whose adult son seeks him out in Commission, which was written and directed by Weaving's Lord of the Rings co-star David Wenham.

One of the most impressive shorts, Long, Clear View - which evokes with rare poise the world-view of a child - was written and directed by rising Aussie actress Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland and Stoker), who had never stepped behind the camera before.

Producer Robert Connelly likens the act of watching Tim Winton's The Turning in a cinema to going to an art gallery.

"[The film invites] a personal response to the many unique threads and connections without losing the value of experiencing each individual work and the artist behind it," he says.

Don't miss the opportunity to experience this unique movie event on the big screen.

Tim Winton's The Turning screens for two weeks only from November 7 at the Rialto Cinemas in Auckland; the Light House Cuba in Wellington and the Alice Cinematheque in Christchurch. Each $25 ticket film comes with a glossy book which outlays how the stories connect to each other, and features commentary from all the directors involved.

- Herald on Sunday

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