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Australia 1998/2006
Directed by
Curtis Levy
73 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Synopsis: A documentary about Hephzibah Menuhin, sister to Yehudi, who married Lindsay Nicholas, heir to the Aspro fortune, and came to live in Australia, on Terinallum, his 8000-hectare sheep property in Victoria's Western District.

Curtis Levy's documentary begins with an old upright piano being loaded onto the back of a ute and closes with it being driven across the flat landscape of Victoria's Western District. The significance of this we are not told, although given its coffin-like shape and the fact that Hephzibah Menuhin was a concert pianist we assume that it represents a metaphor not so much for Hephzibah's own life as Levy's re-telling of it.

Levy's mother, Joan, was a close friend of Hephzibah and Levy has had the good fortune to gain access to first-rate archival material, including home movies from Hephzibah's early married life and her letters, extracts from which are read with great effectiveness by Kerry Armstrong. Not only was Hephzibah a deeply reflective and highly articulate person but all of the people who speak about her here (with perhaps the exception of her sons who probably have spent too long on the farm) are of a similar bent. Yehudi and Yalta Menuhin discuss their sister with clearly heartfelt emotion (Yehudi died in 1999, Yalta in 2001) whilst Eva Cox, Hephzibah's step-daughter by Richard Hauser and Clara, her own daughter with him speak with commendable frankness about their memories of her.

Hephzibah married Lindsay Nicholas at the age of 18, swept off her feet by the Nicholas family wealth and arrived in Victoria wanting only to be a good farmer's wife. In time however her husband turned out to be rather an old school stodge and Hephzibah's aspirations, which were above all for social justice, outgrew him. Eventually she fell in love with Richard Hauser, left her Australian family and moved with him to the East End of London, where they ran what they called The Centre For Human Rights from their own home and to which she committed her all until her death in 1981.

Levy assembles his rich material with simple clarity in chronological order allowing the viewer time to absorb the information and to engage with the subject. The result is an insightful, honest and moving celebration of a remarkable life.




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