The Turning

Directors: Jonathan aud der Heide, Tony Ayres, Jub Clerc, Robert Connolly, Shaun Gladwell, Rhys Graham, Justin Kurzel, Yaron Lifschitz, Anthony Lucas, Claire McCarthy, Ian Meadows, Ashlee Page, Stephen Page, Simon Stone, Warwick Thornton, Marieka Walsh, Mia Wasikowska, David Wenham.

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Robyn Nevin, Hugo Weaving, Josh McConville, Rose Byrne, Miranda Otto.

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 107 minutes

Synopsis: A series of short films based on the writings of Tim Winton.

I can’t imagine anyone sitting down to read an entire book of short stories in a single go. That’s not quite true. I can imagine it, I just don’t think many people would. They’re short for a reason, allowing the reader to dip and out of the often unconnected tales at their leisure. Transpose the same mentality to film and you have a strange paradox. In the cinema at least, you have to sit through all of the different tales, and this is where THE TURNING has a few issues.

Some of the shorts in THE TURNING only reach a couple of minutes, and in those few minutes a lot can happen. Despite the constraints of time, there is a lot of character development, discussion of issues and themes, but not always a beginning, middle and, end. Just as stories are starting to take off, they end. It feels like a tragic waste at times, and like you’re watching a series of trailers at others. It’s also hard to appreciate each film, as you’re thrust straight into the next one. There’s no time to put the book down and digest what you’ve just experienced.

This can prove particularly damaging, mostly to the harder hitting stories. In the short film called THE TURNING, we find Rose Byrne as an unhappily married woman who tricks her husband into thinking she’s having an affair, and soon opens her heart to Jesus. It’s brutal at points, and requires lots of afterthought, but during the film itself you find your mind constantly reminding yourself to revisit it, making concentration on later segments harder. The more subtle short films seem to get lost among the bolder moments.

There’s no quibbles with the cast though, and a quick glance may convince you you’ve headed back to Middle Earth. The likes of Blanchett and Weaving are as reliable as ever. They infuse their roles with just as much pathos and credibility as their roles in full length films. Whether credit is with the writers and directors, of which there are many, or the short stories themselves, THE TURNING is filled with lots of dramatic moments that stay with you. They may get a little confused with so many information however. The opening animation is a gorgeous little meditation, and the short in which a child’s body is found years after a terrible accident is as haunting as anything you’re likely to see all year.

This is certainly a film that should be more suited to Home Entertainment, where you can visit the films separately. For once it’s a good thing that the UK has received a heavily cut version, clocking in at 107 minutes rather than the original three hours plus. As a showreel of exciting Australian talent, this works miracles. You’ll see direction which captures your imagination, performances that resonate, lush cinematography, and inventive editing. You’ll have to trawl through the credits to find out who was responsible for each short, which is another reason why DVD and Blu-ray would be best for such a mixture of great talent, but little narrative cohesion.

[usr=3] THE TURNING is out now.