The Turning – Just Didn’t Get Close


Its hard to imagine Tim Winton being impressed with the screenplay of The Turning.

In places it captures some of the earthy melancholy of Winton’s writing and mood, but for the most part it is vague and disappointing, suffering from a terminal overdose of pretentious arty-fartiness.

I went today – to the final showing for the short season down at the Luna in Leederville. I’d been excited about seeing this ‘movie’ since I heard about it, so I dropped the kids with the folks and headed down to Leederville – a bugger of a place to park at lunch time and I finished up in a backstreet up the far end of Oxford.

The Turning isn’t a novel and isn’t really a collection of short stories. Its a meld of the two with enough connection between the stories to give them some semblance of continuity. I loved the book and I’ve read it a couple of times. The Australia and the people Winton depicts are the ones I know – the ones I grew up with – so there is a deep resonance in his writing.

But when you give each ‘story’ to a separate director and use a different cast for each segment then that continuity quickly gets lost. Vic Lang is sometimes a pale redhead, then an olive skinned Aussie as well as being portrayed as aboriginal … No wonder the old lady behind me couldn’t shut up about not having a clue about what was happening. I knew the story and I was having trouble keeping up.

My favourite story in the collection is The Turning itself and this was done fairly well. It caught the roughness of Rae’s life and the attractiveness of her new (Christian) friends. The story is a complete juxtaposition of life and hope with darkness and despair and while it ends darkly it also is a wonderful story.

By contrast Abbreviation was never going to make any sense if you hadn’t read the book… and precious little even if you had, while ‘Immunity’ was 10 minutes of my life I will never get back. Somehow the director thought a ‘ballet’ with no dialogue at all was the best way to capture this one… You’re kidding me right?…

I had been warned that it was a disappointment, but I knew I’d be disappointed if I didn’t go, so I went anyway, just in case it was better than I had hoped.

My suggestion – read the book… Its great.

Don’t even bother with the DVD when it comes out. It was an experiment that failed and I hope maybe one day someone will see the energy in the book and take it on as a coherent project.

I was hoping to walk out with my heart stirred, the way I felt when I read the book, but instead I was just glad when it was over. I held hope thru to the intermission, but by the time Immunity came around I was checking my text messages to see what was going on in the rest of the world. Not a good sign…



2 thoughts on “The Turning – Just Didn’t Get Close

  1. We bailed out at intermission – 3 hours of unrelenting intensity was too much for us on a weekday evening. I liked lots of aspects about it but I felt I was enduring watching it rather than being drawn in. The Turning was my favourite too – not the usual cliched treatment of Jesus. May watch the DVD when it comes out just to see the bits we bailed out on…. but maybe not. I haven’t read the book so will definitely try that.

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