The Eye of the Storm – review

Fred Schepisi's latest film is a heartfelt adaptation of Patrick White's story of Australian expatriates, writes Philip French

Reading on mobile? See the trailer here

The cantankerous, complex, gay Patrick White published his lengthy The Eye of the Storm in 1973, the year he became the first (and still the only) Australian to win the Nobel prize for literature. Adapted by Judy Morris, it's the first major film based on a White novel, and clearly a labour of love for Fred Schepisi, whose first Australian movie this is since A Cry in the Dark, his underrated movie about the Lindy Chamberlain case, an event that touched on various themes of place and national identity that are to be found in White.

It's the story of a rich, egocentric old matriarch, Elizabeth Hunter (Charlotte Rampling) and her two expatriate children, Sir Basil (Geoffrey Rush), an actor living in London, and daughter Dorothy (Judy Davis), a divorced French princess living in Paris, who returns to inherit her wealth. Both are in need of money and in thrall to the famous "cultural cringe" that has made all things British and European seem superior to their own culture. Neither will ever get over the way this beautiful, cold, promiscuous woman has denied them her love and constantly humiliated them.

Shakespeare's King Lear (one of Sir Basil's key roles) hangs over the film, and in one of the numerous flashbacks Elizabeth has an epiphany that echoes the storm scene in Lear. It's a chilly, cruel film about characters that are difficult to like or warm to, and it obviously means a great deal to a country that for so long rejected its greatest writer. The performances are excellent and it's photographed with great sensitivity by Ian Baker who has lit all but one of Schepisi's films since his debut with The Devil's Playground in 1976.


Philip French

The GuardianTramp

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