17 December 2008

Movies: Australia

Australia is an epic, and I'm very fond of epics, and been a great Nicole Kidman fan ever since seeing her in "Bangkok Hilton" many years ago, but I'd heard mixed reviews of this movie, so I went along with some trepidation.

In the first few minutes of the film, I was struck by the over-the-top, slightly overacted, almost cartoonish feel, but then I remembered this is a Baz film, and settled right into it. After all, look at Moulin Rouge, a great favourite of mine. Australia is over the top in much the same way, but just as much fun too. (At several points in the film, my kids and I were almost rolling around in our seats with laughter -- all of it genuine.)

Usually, when watching a movie, I will be "in the film" -- I become one of the characters, just as I do when reading a book. I am immersed, swept up, part of it. Baz's films, because I'm noticing the cinematography or direction or acting or whatever, distance me a little from this experience but give me another kind of experience. It's not a greater or lesser experience, just a different one. It's set up from the beginning so isn't an issue. And it's great to see a director with balls enough to have his own vision, to do something different, something away from what everyone else is attempting.

The parallel when I'm reading is the second-person addresses (as authorial interruption). I don't mind these if they're part of the experience. What I can't abide is when I'm in the middle of a story and suddenly the writer addresses me and rips me out of my immersion. If I'm aware from the beginning I won't be immersed in the same way, so it doesn't happen. I'm not reminded that I'm reading because I'm already aware, in a way that I'm not in a "straight" novel. Maybe it's to do with the way I read (conceptually rather than visually) -- I'm not sure.

I do have to say that past the first few minutes, I stopped noticing the style of the movie and just got swept right up in the story.

Australia is part iconic old droving movies like The overlanders, part love story a la Titanic and a ripping good yarn. I can see why Oprah told Nicole and Hugh that it was the movie we need to see. I didn't notice the length at all. And in the dark moments when I think of my book and despair at how the structure isn't a classic beginning, middle and end but rather seems to embody several stories, I can take heart that it does so in much the same way that Australia does. In my novel it's a military coup -- and that could be a novel in itself -- and the parallel to that in this movie is the droving story. But that's not where the film ends -- it then takes up life on the station and the bombing of Darwin; in my novel it's the quest story. It's amazing what movies can teach us -- even if only to sit back and chill out!

So would I recommend Australia: you bet. Especially if you like cows and horses, the gorgeous Hugh and Nicole and landscape, action, adventure and romance.


Ellen said...

Hmm. I'm afraid the structure didn't work for me. The style was fine, but I thought the script/plot was pretty dreadful. (I'm just blogged this, actually.)

Tracey said...

It's funny how what works for one doesn't work for another. I'll have to blog about Benjamin Button, which was one I was expecting to love but didn't. I suppose if it weren't so then we wouldn't need as many films and books, but I do think you make some really interesting points in your post.