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Australia 1998
Directed by
James Bogle
92 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

In The Winter Dark

Adapted by James Bogle and Peter Rasmussen from the novel of the same name by Tim Winton In The Winter Dark was the opening film for the 45th Sydney Film Festival and made it to a raft of film festivals worldwide. Filmed in the Kanimbla Valley in the Blue Mountains, with vivid cinematography by Martin McGrath and a dark, angst-ridden story about four lonely characters live in a remote valley where an unknown animal is brutally killing livestock,.it is a dyed-in-the-wool arthouse film blurring the lines between mystery, horror and serious drama which, predictably enough, failed to find a local audience, returning a paltry $AUD100,000 at the box office for a $AUD3.2 million investment. Irrespective of this Bogle delivers a finely-crafted work and the ensemble cast of Brenda Blethyn, Ray Barrett, Richard Roxburgh, Murray Jacob and Miranda Otto are all excellent although the latter's stridency seems at times overplayed or arbitrary.

Unfortunately whilst one can understand what Bogle is trying to convey in both the interaction between the variously dysfunctional characters and mounting chiller/thriller tension he does not quite achieve it in terms of the film's overall affect. Partly this is to due to the fact that the story is told in flashback and guided by an always-distancing voice-over and partly because it is developed piecemeal, cutting frequently between parallel scenes with usually only two of the cast members, so much so that one tends to clutch at the few scenes with the full ensemble, although these are under-utilized (take, for example, the scene when the men return to the house where the women have been partying, the build-up is considerable but the outcome anti-climactic).

Of course there are many factors at play in making a successful film but given that this was shot in under 6 weeks and helmed by a director on his first major feature this is an impressive effort even if its potential is not fully realized.

FYI: If you would like to see a very different Miranda Otto/Richard Roxburgh coupling, check out Doing Time For Patsy Kline (1997).




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