The Eye of the Storm
Adaptation of Patrick White's 'unfilmable' novel starring Charlotte Rampling and Geoffrey Rush
He may have won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973, but Australian novelist Patrick White has not has much impact cinematically beyond his screenplay for 1978’s The Night, the Prowler. His novel The Eye of The Storm has often been described as unfilmable, but veteran director and fellow countryman Fred Schepisi makes a decent stab at it, aided by strong central performances by Charlotte Rampling as an eccentric matriarch, plus Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis as her children.
Eking out her last moments in a well-appointed country house, Elizabeth Hunter (Rampling) is visited by her greedy offspring, who have returned with separate personal insecurities. Basil Hunter (Rush) is a promiscuous and vainglorious actor, coming off the back of a disastrous production of King Lear which has brought him back to Australia with his gas at a peep. His sister Dorothy de Lascabanes (Davis) is resentful of her mother, who she believes stole a boyfriend from her during a previous visit. The tension comes from Elizabeth’s unwillingness to gratify them by dying on cue, and how she torments her children by refusing to go quietly into the night.
Australian cinema has often been characterized by rude and crude international exports, but The Eye of the Storm has the refined edge of a Peter Carey novel, and in some ways resembles the ‘twitch upon the thread’ domestic finale of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Schepisi has helmed over two decades of prestige cinema, and while he doesn’t manage to widen the novels’ highly specialized appeal, he does get sensitive performances from his leads.
Serious-minded, literate dramas are few and far between outside Oscar season, and until a tired third act, The Eye of the Storm just about manages to live up to its illustrious pedigree.
Limited release from Fri 3 May.