- Macbeth (Roman Polanski, UK/USA, 1971)
- Nóz w wodzie (Knife in the Water, Roman Polanski, Poland, 1962)
- The Black Balloon (Elissa Down, Australia, 2008)
I had some anticipation in seeing this magnificent portrayal of treachery, a film I first saw in my teens when we covered the text in English. It left a strong impression on me, and I remembered it as a cold and bloody film. Some thirty-odd years later and it has certainly withstood the test of time. I haven't read Shakespeare since my school days, but the guy was brilliant, and Polanski certainly brings the text to life.
I loved the graphic and repugnant depictions of the witches, bookended with the spell at the start and the coven at the end. The murder scenes were fantastically gory, and one wonders what effect the then recent murders of Polanski's pregnant wife and three of his friends by the Manson gang had on the making of the film. The story effectively portrays the changes that occur when one commits a crime out of greed. Things don't go to plan and for Lady Macbeth, the result was insanity. My favourite scene is Macbeth's vision of Banquo's ghost at his dinner table.
Knife in the Water
Polanski's first film, and the only one made in his native Poland, I found it a fascinating look into the director's early work. While the tone and narrative are clearly different, I saw similarities with Michael Haneke's Funny Games. The obvious connection is the yacht, but both films also had a playful competitiveness about them. I particularly liked the ambiguity of the ending in which several questions were left unanswered.
The Black Balloon
Despite Lynden Barber's glowing recommendations for this new Australian film, the shorts gave me reservations that I found justified. I don't think it's enough for a film to be authentic and based on a true story (which it is). It has mostly good performances, though I found the smile of the lead, Rhys Wakefield, slightly grating. I also think Toni Collette is in serious danger of being permanently typecast as a frumpy suburban mum. When I think of Rowan Woods' The Boys, I know she can do so much better.
What can I say? Maybe I'm just suffering Australian coming-of-age fatigue. Luke Ford did a better job of portraying an autistic child than I expected, and Gemma Ward was better than I expected. Erik Thomson also performed fine as the father, and his small role was well written, I thought. During and after the film, I just felt like I hadn't been offered much that could be differentiated from the raft of other coming-of-age films that have been released here in the last year, even if it is a touch better than the rest of them.