The Eye of the Storm

    
Director: Fred Schepisi
Cert: Club
Genre: Drama
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Charlotte Rampling, Judy Davis, John Gaden
Running Time: 1 hr 59 mins

Here’s a strange film made for nobody in particular by people who should know better.

Based on a novel by Patrick White, Australia's only winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, The Eye of the Storm features an enjoyably fruity performance from Geoffrey Rush as a pompous theatrical knight who, even by 1972, seems somewhat out of his time. One imagines him appearing in creaky Whitehall farces, doublet-and-hose Shakespeare and stuffy, dusty, static dramas like the one currently under discussion.

The film circles (slowly, like an overfed vulture) around the protracted death of a savage matriarch played, with no concessions to subtlety, by Charlotte Rampling. Rush turns up as Sir Basil, the marginally more ghastly of her two middle-aged children. The depressed, frustrated Dorothy, now divorced from a European aristocrat, takes the form of a predictably overexcited Judy Davis.

Every cupboard swells with more skeletons than the average ossuary. Bickering takes place over the potential distribution of property. Outbreaks of 1970s period detail clash with the puzzling inter-war ambience that floods most of the suffocating scenes.


Rampling trots out the sort of weary remarks that elderly ladies rarely make in real life, but almost always make in bitter dramas about doomed families. “Would you be terribly cross with me if I didn’t die?” she inquires. Speaking for the audience, I would urge her to get it over with as quickly as possible.

The stars do their best with sluggishly written parts. But neither Fred Schepisi, a veteran Australian director, nor Judy Morris, co-writer of Happy Feet , manage to inject any sort of cinematic energy into the plodding narrative. A clutter of shocking incident (the most shocking of which you will guess early on) does come our way in the last half- hour, but the atmosphere has, by this stage, already become so stuffy and soporific that it proves hard to get too excited.

Read the book instead.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist