Home' Nova West : August 2010 Contents keeping the light burning, on and off (no
pun intended) for 18 months without
supervision. In fact, Harry and Fleet have
not been quite as diligent as some passing
ships would have hoped, and they have
been reported for letting the light go out.
So the cranky Wadsworth arrives to
make things shipshape and Meredith his
disgraced niece comes too -- carrying a
lamb. (It is unclear why this should be --
are we to suspect it is the "sacrificial lamb"?)
Initially, Meredith is friendly with
Harry's family, in particular his daughter
Nettie (Annie Martin), but Meredith's
desperate search for affection leads her
astray and she finds the married Harry
and his charms impossible to resist. This
leads to Harry being thrown off the island,
along with his irate wife and children.
So Meredith is alone with her uncle,
and the morose Fleet. It is already obvious
that Meredith craves company of any sort,
and so even Fleet's quietness doesn't put
her off trying to engage with him. To say
he is not the chatty type, doesn't go
anywhere near describing the silence that
entombs him. This also makes for pretty
dull viewing. Luckily, the production
design, the costumes, the landscape and
the music all do their darndest to keep
Barry and Mirada Otto's performances
are right on the money (it's just I find
women like the character Meredith
incredibly irritating) and Annie Martin as
the precocious Nettie is superb.
Given that when this film screened at
the Sydney Film Festival, an oft repeated
comment in reviews was that it was too
long, it seems foolish for the writer/
director Shirley Barrett not to have taken
the opportunity to re-edit before general
SOUTH SOLITARY ★★★
There ave been a couple of Australian
films recently that make you realise why
Australian directors of photography are
so sought after. Dean Semler may not be
a household name, but the films he has
worked on certainly are. With the release
of South Solitary (the director of
photography is Anna Howard) and The
Waiting City (Densen Baker), it is clear
that the crisp Australian light enables
these unsung artists to really "show" what
they can do. Neither The Waiting City,
nor South Solitary is a particularly good
film, but there is no doubting both are
gorgeous to look at.
South Solitary of the film's title is an
island off the coast of Australia, where
Meredith (Miranda Otto) and her uncle
Wadsworth (Barry Otto) are sent after the
suicide of the previous head light keeper.
It is 1927 and they are not particularly
welcome on the island, as the deputy
light keeper Harry (Rohan Nicol) and his
assistant Fleet (Martin Csokas) have been
THE GHOST WRITER ★★★★
You have to go back to the film Frantic
in the late 1980s to find a Roman Polanski
film similar in style to The Ghost Writer.
Frantic featured Harrison Ford as the
distraught husband of a wife who goes
missing in Paris, so it had a feeling of
alienation and disconnection, without
actually having to be in a strange place.
It was a thriller in the traditional sense
-- that is, car chases are not necessary to
give the idea of pursuit. Polanski knows
how to create a sense of foreboding, and
he knows when to let the audience relax
just a little before tightening the tension
The Ghost Writer follows a writer
(Ewan McGregor) as he grudgingly takes
on the assignment of ghost writing the
memoirs of a recently retired UK Prime
Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan).
Lang has retired to an island off the coast
of America to find some peace and quiet,
but that is shattered with the drowning of
his previous ghost writer. It is unclear if it
was an accident, suicide or, as the Ghost
becomes increasingly uneasy, murder.
Lang's wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams),
provides the intellectual stimulation and
Amelia (Kim Cattrell), as the PM's aide,
provides more than secretarial support to
the former PM.
As the Ghost begins to take his
writing work more seriously, and his
investigation into the life and times of
Lang becomes more detailed, it is clear
that these people are not what they
seem, so he decides to find out why.
In this film, Brosnan has thrown off
his facile Bond mantle and embraces
this role with vigour, while McGregor
appears to be little more than the cipher
that drives the action -- this, in itself, may
be a conscious choice. Olivia Williams is
the powerful central performance (while
appearing to be a side player) who is the
conduit for information and emotion of
the film. Tom Wilkinson puts in a short
and memorable appearance as a classmate
of the former PM and his "Wall of Ego"
comment is a gem.
If you like to turn on your brain
when you go to the cinema, and have a
hankering for just a touch of Hitchcock
in your thrillers, then The Ghost Writer
will fit the bill.
FILMS BY MARY O'DONOVAN ★★★★★ so good ★★★★ really good ★★★ pretty good ★★ not so good ★ no good
© NOVA AUGUST 2010
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