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We borrowed this miniseries from the Ottawa Public Library. My husband
(an Australian) was mortified that we would spend 10 hours watching TV
in one week (the library's time limit for videos), and after the first
episode I also thought that we would probably not get through the lot.
But eventually we got caught up in the program as it evolved, becoming
somewhat bizarre even, reminding us from time to time of the magical
realism of some Latin American writers.
The series takes place in a immigrants' welcome camp in the middle of nowhere in Australia, following the lives of administrators and immigrants ("inmates" according to a camp director). The story is a mixture of life in the camp and the individual histories of the immigrants, some of which is told in flashbacks. Certainly we felt that some stories were unusual even extreme, to the point of edginess. The outside world interferes little which is a bit odd considering that this camp was supposed to be a transitory place for the immigrants whose aim should be to find work and integrate into Australian life.
The writing definitely improves as the series advances, but the show remains a mixture of predictable and (sometimes very) surprising turn of events. The same can be said about the acting. I particularly liked Linda Cropper (Lady Bev) and of course Cate Blanchett (Bianca) is eery, creepy and ephemeral at the same time. Hugo Weaving is also excellent as an embattled English teacher while I must admit I often didn't understand what the actress who played his daughter was saying which was a pity as she was the quasi narrator at the beginning of each episode.
Overall, an interesting miniseries, worth watching if you have 10 spare hours on your hand. Don't expect to learn much about the struggles of new immigrants in Australian society, this is more a collection of quirky stories of a closed village.
One last thing: they didn't include the usual disclaimer at the end "No animal was harmed in the making this movie" even though quite a number of sheep get knocked off - as is typical in the Australian outback, I guess.
I've just begun watching this series. As an English migrant who came to
Australia in the 1960's and lived in a hostel (long since gone), I
thought it would be a relatively realistic interpretation of the
hostels; the problems, the fights, the isolation, the friendships. but
it seems to be a very imaginative take on the situations encountered.
E.g; dining in a rather swish manner. Not where I stayed.
Having recently visited one of the remaining (unused)hostel sites in Australia; Bonegilla in Victoria, it is easy to work out that the location is meant to be there. Imagine travelling across the world from war ravaged Europe in 1947 to a small country location at least 4 hours from Melbourne and finding a dry, parched scene where rain is not plentiful and there is nowhere to go. My heart goes out to those people, but, many who stayed in Asutralia would say it was the making of them.
I will persevere with the series based on other viewers comments, but with an adjusted view of my expectations of the story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I checked this out of my local library because of my admiration for Cate Blanchett. Her role in this long drama is actually a fairly minor one, and probably the least well-delineated character. I can't believe I made it through all the episodes, disliking it as much as I did. The best aspect of this drama is the outstanding acting 3 individuals: Mitchell Butel in the character of Nino, Linda Cropper as Bev, and Geoff Morrell as H.G. Bates. All three were new names for me, hence their performances were not only outstanding and subtle enough to nearly convince me to believe in the narrative, but also provided the excitement of discovering new (to me) talent! Sadly, the drama has many flaws, the worst of which is the inability to understand clearly much of the speech, especially that of Louisa, who is the voice of the narrator. Her British dialect is so thick that throughout the first few episodes I understood more of the Italian! Had the DVD set I borrowed actually included subtitles, the whole drama would have been clearer and more enjoyable. Does such a version exist, I wonder? I also found the pace to be deadly slow, with a great deal of time spent in various characters mooning and fantasizing about unrequited or dead lovers and in small groups of sad characters drinking themselves into oblivion. As a surprising murder takes place and lovers go back and forth, pregnancies occur, miscarriages are planned and carried out, etc. it seems that the story has devolved into a huge soap opera, spinning way beyond a believable tale. All in all, many characters are just annoying if not outright wicked. Yet, somehow, the writer assumes we will find them lovable or deserving of interest anyway. The relentless self-pity of some of characters is simply tedious. I found it impossible to believe in the Louisa-Nino relationship, ditto the Bev-Joe relationship. At the end, I felt inexpressibly sad for Geoff Morrell's character. Cate Blanchett's character is unpleasant and not really comprehensible. In short, the immigrant camp is a collection of raging drama-queens! Most of the dramatic tension in this series is created by the question of whether different characters will commit suicide or not. None of them have anything on their minds other than their sex lives or alcohol. Surely, such a diverse collection of people would yield something a bit more interesting, but this writer doesn't have the imagination to go there.
An often forgotten TV series about a strange migrant experience... 1950's Australia saw mass emigration from Europe to the frontier countries, this mixture set in a migrant camp is varied and colourful to say the least. This series is highly recommended, and was too quickly forgotten.
9 of 10 -- I went ahead and got this for the same reason many will, as
it becomes more widely known - Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett BOTH
thought it was worth doing? 'Hell, Yeah, lemme lookit that...' The
characters in this TV mini-series are slo-oo-wly... splendidly
developed... At the end of the second ep., I thinks 'yeah, this was
worth the buy...' then the fourth, fifth and finally the absolutely
devastating sixth eps., I will be telling everyone to give this a
look... no Netflix folks, gonna hafta' pony-up. I recommend that you
do. The deep love for the characters in the screen-writing makes up for
the budget and the occasional loss of focus. These characters deserved
the screen-time -you wanted more from every one of them- and I found
myself thinking about them and the series quite a lot the following day
/ week that it took to get back. The acting is top, and the story-line
note: as mentioned by another reviewer, this is -probably- not for kids. There is really no way to explain why without spoilers, but I'm not the most conservative person. I believe that it would be rated 15 in Australia, and I would agree with that.
I don't write reviews as a rule, and reading this you know why - but as a US Aussiephile I was looking, as a fan of the two widely-known actors, I bought (the actors that I didn't know very well have pages of credentials in international films that I've not seen - a terrific cast and casting work - Alex Menglet has a new and dedicated fan).
I'm so glad I took the chance...
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