Two very different films about child abuse are among the picks of this year’s Sydney Film Festival (7-18 June).
Benedict Andrews first feature film, UNA, is a taut tale of sexual obsession.
Based on David Harrower’s play Blackbird, the screenplay has been written by the playwright.
The events of the summer when Una was thirteen still exert a tremendous, magnetic pull on her, thirteen years later.
Thirteen years ago, the thirteen year old Una waited for the much older Ray in a hotel room. Ray was her next door neighbour and Una had run away with Ray, they had sex for the first time, and the he appeared to have loved and left her.
Now, thirteen years later, Una tracks Ray, now known as Peter, to his workplace, neither to condemn or condone, but to confront.
What happened between Ray and Una should never have happened, but what happened transformed and shattered their lives. They are left to piece together their broken lives and to reflect on how their lives might be repaired. True to life, there are no easy answers.
Which is also what I am doing now writing this brief piece on British playwright David Harrower’s SWEET NOTHINGS. Harrower’s play is a smart, contemporary adaptation of Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler’s 1895 play LIEBELEI (FLIRTATION). Schnitzler, the playwright who inspired the movies EYES WIDE SHUT and THE BLUE ROOM, described his play, written when he was in his early thirties, as a, ‘touching tragicomedy’.
The play is on a similar theme to one of my all-time favourite films, Swiss fimmaker Claude Goretta’s THE LACEMAKER, and starring French actress, Isabella Huppert. Huppert, who shared a Sydney stage earlier this year with Cate Blanchett in a Jean Genet play, plays a young woman whose spirit is shaken when she is abandoned by a careless lover.
SWEET NOTHINGS opens with two party boys, Fritz and Theodore, in a boisterous mood, getting ready for a big night out. Lothario Fritz has been having an affair with a married woman which is threatening to be exposed. Theodore is trying to distract Fritz from his adulterous affair by inviting two women over, party girl Mitzi and her friend, Christine.
The women arrive, everybody gets plastered, the party gets more and more decadent, and everyone starts kissing everyone… Then, there is a knock on the door, a Gentleman arrives…
John Kachoyan’s production serves Harrower’s play well and he wins good performances from the cast.
Ensemble Studios graduate Matilda Ridgway gives a well measured, touching performance a Christine, a naïve, sweet natured young woman who falls for Fritz. Christine Mills impresses as the brash, outrageous, Mizi.
Graeme McRae and Owen Little shine as the dirty, rotten playboys, Fritz and Theodore. Alistair Wallace plays the Gentleman caller out for vengeance. We have to wait until Act 2 to see veteran star of stage and screen, Mark Lee, who impresses as Christine’s anxious father, Weiring, and Lucy Miller plays family friend, Katherina.
Kachoyan’s creative team enhance the production with a good work coming from Sophie Fletcher’s well detailed costume and set design, Marty Jamieson’s atmospheric score and Hartley Kemp’s sharp lighting design.
SWEET NOTHINGS is the final production of the year in the ATYP’s Under the Wharf program. Recommended, SWEET NOTHINGS, a co-production by pantsguys productions and Geraldine Timmins, opened at ATYP Studio 1, Pier 4/5 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, on Friday November 8 and runs until Saturday November 23, 2013.