Film Review:

1917

 

The madness and futility of the First World War has been the inspiration for many fine films, beginning in 1930 with Lewis Milestone’s version of the Erich Maria Remarque novel, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, which was a daring story for its time, in that it showed the horrors of war from the perspective of German infantrymen.

In Sam Mendes’s ‘1917’, it is the British with whom we sympathise, but in other ways, the themes are similar - incompetent and ego-driven officers, and troops who are treated as cannon fodder. Mendes, however, also gives us officers doing their best in impossible circumstances.

This film is based on a story told to Mendes by his grandfather, Alfred, to whom the film is dedicated. In that respect, it is a very personal project.

But what makes ‘1917’ unique is the way it is filmed as a continuous shot or, at least, the illusion of one. We literally follow the two lance corporals, Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay), on their mission to cross no man’s land and reach the Devonshire battalion in order to warn the colonel that they are heading into a German trap and they should call off their attack. For Corporal Blake, this mission is deeply personal – his brother is a lieutenant with the Devons.

We follow Blake and Schofield as they weave their way through the British trenches and then cross the battlefield, avoiding bomb craters filled with water and rotting bodies. Eventually they reach the abandoned German trenches, where a nasty surprise awaits them.

There are heart-stopping incidents along the way, as well as a poignant encounter with a young French woman who is caring for an orphaned baby, a scene which reminds us humanity can exist in the hell that is the Western Front. Possibly the most moving moment of the entire film is the scene involving the hymn ‘Poor Wayfaring Stranger’. It brought tears to my eyes.

‘1917’ does not have leading men in the traditional sense. The two protagonists are little known* actors; their very anonymity makes the viewer’s identification with them much stronger. There are some ‘name’ actors in the film – an almost unrecognisable Colin Firth as the general who sends the boys on their mission, Andrew Scott (Moriarty from ‘Sherlock’) as a world-weary lieutenant who couldn’t give a damn, and the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch in a brief but nuanced performance as the frazzled colonel in charge of the Devons.

‘1917’ is a moving story of the horrors of war. It has already won a Golden Globe for Best Drama and you can expect an Academy Award to follow for the film and its director.


*George MacKay plays a tortured Ned Kelly in 'The True History of Ned Kelly' (2019)  alongside Essie Davis and Russell Crowe.

Deborah O’Brien

26 January 2020

Crafting Characters

Guest Post for Hey Said Renee

Grey possum 

How do you come up with your characters? That’s a question people often ask me. I wish I could tell them I compile meticulous character cards before I start writing and that I make a detailed plan indicating exactly what will happen to my characters over the course of the book. 

That would be a logical and sensible approach to characterisation, but I have to plead guilty to doing the exact opposite. No cards, no plans, no details. Just an initial idea around which to build a character. It could be a mannerism, an accent, a personality trait or even a job. It might be a combination of those things but at the outset it’s always woolly and ill-defined.

Read more at the Hey Said Renee website.

Welcome to ‘The Rarest Thing’ Blog Tour

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Join these Australian book bloggers from 24 October as they review ‘The Rarest Thing’.  

Links will appear as the reviews come online.

 

Monday, 24 October              Kensington Review: Chris McGuigan

Tuesday, 25 October              Annie Seaton
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Wednesday, 26 October        Duffy the Writer

Thursday, 27 October            Reading, Writing and Riesling

Tuesday, 1 November            Kay Wiggins

Wednesday, 2 Nov.                Mrs B's Book Reviews

Thursday, 3 November          J. F. Gibson

Friday, 4 November               Booklover Book Reviews

Saturday, 5 November           Ink Ashlings


Plus Guest Posts on these websites:

                                                    Hey Said Renée

                                                    Annie Seaton

Goodreads review                   Shelagh Merlin

 


                                    BUY THE GIFT EDITION PAPERBACK NOW

 


 

fbook icon 60Winners of 'The Rarest Thing' Giveaway

 1 October 2016

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Release date: 1 November 2016


Many thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway to win one of two advance copies of 'The Rarest Thing'


The winners are:

Delores B

Gayle H


Could you both kindly get in contact with me by email at:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

to let me know your mailing address and the name you'd like for the signed dedication on your book. Then I'll gift-wrap it and pop it in the post to you.

Please bear in mind that Monday is a public holiday in NSW so I won't be able to send your book until after that.

If you missed out on winning an advance copy, please note that you'll be able to buy the special gift edition of 'The Rarest Thing' and the ebook direct from the Lomandra Press website on 1 November 2016. 

 


 

fbook icon 60Review: Reality Big Guns


Australian Survivor season 3 logo

Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48599159


As the TV calendar approaches the pointy end of the year, it’s do or die for the free-to-air networks. So they’ve brought out the reality big guns, the shows involving real people thrown into unreal situations. These programs can rate through the roof - literally, in the case of The Block where roofs and ceilings come off at the drop of a hard-hat.

Whenever I watch The Block, I'm reminded that the interiors of my own house are sooo last decade. As someone who’s been an owner-builder on two projects – one a major reno, the other a new build, I know how stressful and exhausting the whole process can be. That’s why I like to do my renovating vicariously these days, reclining on the sofa with a glass of wine and watching other people do all the work. I've even been known to yell at the screen, reminding the contestants to wear their dust masks or measure twice and cut once. (This is akin to my tendency to shout ‘Call for back-up!’ during police dramas but that's a story for another day.)

Reality TV comes in many forms and there’s something strangely compelling about matchmaking shows. So let’s start with Married at First Sight, a program that turns the traditional romance trope upside down. The first episode features the weddings of five couples who have never met but have been matched ‘scientifically’ by a trio of psychologists. Subsequent episodes follow the newly minted relationships as they flourish, fizzle or implode. Against my better judgment, I’ve become hooked on this show. Watching the hapless couples, meeting at the altar, dressed in their wedding finery, makes for nail-biting suspense. Will it be attraction or rejection? One contestant said she would know either way in the first 90 seconds. Wow!

Unlike Married at First Sight, The Bachelor doesn’t purport to be a 'social experiment'. And strictly speaking, it isn’t reality TV either. More like the epitome of unreality, a bizarre fairytale where the handsome prince chooses his princess from among the two dozen glamorous candidates vying for his attention. The setting is a modern-day version of a fairytale castle (or, at least, the producers' vision thereof), complete with silk wisteria hanging from arbours, and a myriad of candles covering almost every available surface. Who lights them all and snuffs them out afterwards? I must check the credits to see if they employ a candle wrangler. (Stop Press: I just read that the show has a fire warden to deal with the candle situation. Thank goodness for that.)

Although the premise underlying The Bachelor is rather worrying, I have to confess I find it eminently watchable. Richie Strahan, last year’s second runner-up for Sam Frost’s heart, has been promoted to the starring role in this year’s show. Richie seems to be a really nice guy - which is why I feel sorry for him as he squirms through the relentless rose ceremonies.

And now to the ultimate reality show, Survivor Australia. The contestants begin their 55 days on a tropical island with no shelter, no fire, no food and no creature comforts. That’s harsh reality for you. Jonathan LaPaglia is a fine host who interrogates team members at tribal council with surgical precision. Maybe that's because he used to be a doctor before he became an actor. 

I’ve left the cooking shows till last. The best ones, MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules, are in hiatus, and we’re left with Zumbo's Just Desserts. Great title, tedious show, even with the delightful Rachel Khoo as co-host. The affable Adriano Zumbo might be the master of the macaron and the creator of the world’s highest croquembouche, but he doesn’t have a strong enough personality to carry a TV show. Zumbo's Just Desserts only serves to remind me of how much I miss Gary, Matt and George and their witty badinage.


Deborah O’Brien
August 2016 


fbook icon 60A Bookish Trivia Quiz

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‘The Trivia Man’ (Penguin Random House) is the story of a quirky group of people who come together every Tuesday night for a trivia competition. Each week there’s a different theme – sport, music, films . . . Tonight it’s literature. See how you go on this quick quiz about books and authors. Answers at the end.

 

1. Which famous American writer, born in 1835, said, ‘Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else’?


2. Which of the following novels was not written by Charles Dickens?


A. Bleak House

B. Little Dorrit

C. Vanity Fair

D. Hard Times


3. Who is the author of the award-winning Australian novel The Secret River?


4. Which of these fictional detectives was created by Ruth Rendell?


A. Inspector Wexford

B. Inspector Morse

C. Inspector Dalgleish

D. Inspector Frost


5. Which Australian author won the 2014 Man Booker Prize?


6. Harper Lee’s iconic 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird is set in a fictional town in which American state?


A .California

B. Alabama

C. Kentucky

D. Texas


7 .‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’

This is the first line of which novel by Daphne du Maurier?


8.Who is the female protagonist of Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’?


A. Elizabeth Bennet

B. Elinor Dashwood

C. Fanny Price

Emma Woodhouse


9. Who am I? I was born in 1879 and given the first name Stella. I had many suitors including Andrew ‘Banjo’ Paterson, but I never married. Two literary awards have been named in my honour. My best known book is My Brilliant Career. I am . . .?


10. Which occupation do the following characters have in common?

 

Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women

Paul Sheldon from Stephen King’s Misery

Anne Shirley from L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables

Juliet Ashton in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Answers

1.  Mark Twain

2.  C. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray

3.  Kate Grenville

4.  A. Inspector Wexford

5.  Richard Flanagan

6.  B. Alabama

7.  Rebecca

8.  B. Elinor Dashwood

9.  Miles Franklin

10.  They are all writers


Deborah O’Brien
First written for Random House Blog June 2015