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Australia 1990
Directed by
John Power
100 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


This, by Australian standards, unusually provocative drama explores the issue of war crimes through the story of an elderly immigrant (Max Von Sydow), the patriarch of a typical Australian family, who is accused of acts of barbarity during WWII by a seemingly neurotic woman (Julia Blake) who alleges that as a child she survived the murder of her family by him.

Although Power's direction tends to be slightly heavy-handed in the early stages, thus effectively giving away the suspense, in other respects the film is remarkably strong and deserves to be better known. The two main strengths are the fine script by Tony Cavanaugh and Graham Hartley, who were also co-producers, and the excellent performances by the 3 principals. Von Sydow is quietly outstanding as the accused, an evasive mixture of lovable old fuddy-duddy and inflexible paterfamilias, Julia Blake, who is more usually seen effortlessly playing elegant older women, turns in an effective performance as a women teetering on the brink of desperation and Carole Drinkwater is equally good as the accused's daughter, the three coming together in a testing climax which they bring off with credibility.

The script keeps the moral issues embedded in the everyday, drawing the audience into the maelstrom of doubt which the accusation creates as now one side, now the other, seems to hold the truth, in a story which is more convincing for its ordinariness and eschewing of great dramatic effect, the simple final scene of the outcast grandfather, the estranged daughter and confused grandchildren being one of all-too-believable pathos. 




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