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Australia 1995
Directed by
John Hughes
98 minutes
Rated R


4.5 stars

What I Have Written

What I Have Written is an exceptional film in the annals of Australian cinema because of its "European" sensibility and analytical approach to the traditional narrative form of representation. Martin Jacobs plays a Melbourne academic in a loveless marriage who on a trip to France meets and falls in love with a woman (Gillian Jones) with whom he starts a correspondence. When he has a stroke his wife (Angie Milliken) finds out about the relationship and turns to her husband's friend (Jacek Koman) in order to understand what had been going on.

No doubt much of the strength of the film derives from the contribution of scriptwriter John A. Scott who has adapted his own novel that, in the broadest sense, explores the twin face of love and desire in a middle class setting. The film's rare quality however derives from both the richness of Scott's text, which interweaves the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci, Freud's musings on them, pornographic images and belle-lettres in what is both a mystery story and an account of the vagaries of the heart, and the elliptical, multi-layered approach the director John Hughes takes to its cinematic form. In part this comes from the use of different filmic devices such as rapid shifts back and forth in narrative time and setting, the stopping of the normal cinematic flow through the insertion of de-saturated still frames (actually super 16 film shot at 6-frames-per-second), the use of over-lapping voices and so on (all grounded in the striking cinematography by Dion Beebe).

Hughes (who, needless to say, is not John Hughes the writer/director of so many American teen and family comedies but a Melbourne-based documentary film-maker) at times comes perilously close to the self-consciously artistic, and this will tax some audiences, although somewhat unevenly this is confined to the first half of the film, and for my money the two male leads, with Jacek Koman, with his cropped hair and well-defined build, appearing overly macho for an academic, would have better switched around but nevertheless this a challenging effort in an industry that is better-known for trying too hard to please. BH

 

 

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