The Turning is Tim Winton’s blistering short story collection, published in 2005. The 17 stories have some overlapping plot lines, with common characters of people and place. Some of the stories stand alone, and all reflect Winton’s unique way of capturing the West Australian landscape and making it jump out of the page.
Turning this collection into a film was a challenging project, and Robert Connolly has managed to translate the stories into a coherent whole in an unexpected way – by giving 17 different directors – and not all of them coming from that discipline – the task of making one of the stories each. This has avoided the neatness of making the connections between the films “obvious” – using the same actor to portray a recurring character may have taken away some of the mystery and engagement for the viewer that is apparent for the reader.
For example, the character of Vic appears in 8 films, and is portrayed by 8 actors – 4 as a child/youth, and 4 as an adult. The rather swanky program – which was included in the higher than normal “event” price – gave a key to the stories, the overlapping characters and the timeline of the common characters. This was helpful!
Some of the films did a better job of capturing the material they were based on than others – the degree of artistic licence taken by the directors varies widely. This is the both the strength and perhaps a weakness of the end product. Overall, the gems (The Turning, Fog) far outweigh some slightly less strong pieces. The “stars” – Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Miranda Otto, Hugo Weaving, Rose Byrne – are all outstanding, and the rest of the cast are strong in support.
The film is being shown in limited release as a series of “unique cinema events.” Not sure how this will work out for the film, but I guess it’s not one for high rotation at the multi-plexes – more the pity.