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

fbook icon 60Interview with Annie Seaton

Annie Seaton 500 

Annie Seaton, bestselling author of Kakadu Sunset, lives near the beach on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.  Her career and studies have spanned the education sector for most of her working life, with the completion of a Masters Degree in Education, and working as an academic research librarian, a high school principal and a university tutor until she took up a full-time writing career. She is now internationally published in ebooks across the romance genre, and in 2014 was voted Australian Author of the Year by romance readers in the AusRomToday.com Readers' Choice Awards. Each winter Annie and her husband leave the beach to roam the remote areas of Australia for story ideas and research.
 

Annie's newest book, Daintree is about to hit the bookshelves, just in time for the Christmas holidays. I’m delighted to have the chance to chat with Annie today.

1.  Daintree is characterised by a richness of local detail. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume you had lived in Dalrymple all your life. How do you go about creating such an authentic and evocative setting?

Researching a book in the actual environment and living in that setting for a few weeks is essential to me as an author. I am fortunate to write full time, and each winter, am able to travel with my husband to camp and live in the settings that I will use in future books. This enables me to describe my book landscapes in great detail. You can evoke the atmosphere so much more realistically if you have spent time there: the unique fragrances, the feel of the wind on your skin, and the sound of the birds, the waves or the desert wind. The actual essence of a setting is how you experience and feel it through your five senses. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch written well and woven through your character’s perceptions, assist the reader to believe they are there in the story themselves.

A brief excerpt from Daintree is below. Can you smell the pub?

The graceful old building sprawled on the corner on the northern edge of town overlooking the single track railway line where the sugar cane trains chuffed past on their way to the sugar mill west of town. The familiar mix of sweat, spilt beer and stale cigarette smoke— absorbed for years by the timber and the threadbare carpet in the days before it was illegal to smoke in Aussie pubs— hit her like a solid wall. The sour smell mixed with the sweet aroma of sugar cane coming from the skin and clothes of the cane harvesters.

2.  Like Kakadu Sunset, Daintree is a novel which blends disparate elements – mystery, romance and environmental issues. How difficult is it to integrate those threads?

Integrating the threads of a story is one of the best parts of a writing journey for me. I don’t use any software, or paper planning tools, or whiteboards or charts. I think about my story and the various themes that I want to present, and let it all come together in my thoughts over a period of weeks. Somehow the magic of writing delivers each time, and the story melds together as my fingers hit the keyboard. In Daintree, there is suspense, romance, environmental issues as well as the trauma experienced by health care workers and a little bit of alternative medicine too!

3.  Your female protagonist, Dr Ellie Porter has a passion for holistic medicine  and bush remedies. Do you have a particular interest in these areas?

I have always been interested in holistic medicine. In my early career years, I was employed as an information officer in a medical faculty that delivered an innovative course in medical training for doctors, and my interest in holistic medicine was born. As we explored the Australian outback, my interest in aboriginal culture and the facets that make it unique has been intense, and bush medicine is a part of that learning journey for me.

4.  So far, we’ve met two of the Porter Sisters, Ellie and Emma, and I look forward to getting to know Dru in the final book of the trilogy. Did you know from the outset how their stories would unfold?

The only plan I had in place for the subsequent stories were the professions of the sisters – Emma, a doctor, and Dru, an engineer. The settings were also driven by our travels over the past four winters.  Emma ended up in the Daintree Rainforest, and Book 3, yet to be titled, will be the story of Dru’s experiences in a diamond mine in the east Kimberley region of Western Australia. Her story is almost complete and is about to wing its way to my editor.

5. And finally, if Daintree were to be made into a film and you were the casting director, which actors would you choose to play Dr Emma Porter and Dr Jeremy Langford?

Oh, that is such a hard question for me! I watch very little television or movies, and my favourites are all golden oldies. So . . . let me think.

I would choose Australian actors and I can visualise David Wenham as Jeremy, and Claudia Karvan as Emma.

Thank you, Annie, for taking the time to answer my questions today. 
You can read my review of Daintree here. 

Daintree is published by Pan Macmillan Australia and is available from all good bookshops.

Visit Annie's website.

Deborah O'Brien,

29 November 2016


fbook icon 60Review of Annie Seaton’s Daintree

Daintree Cover image cropped

What’s the next best thing to visiting the Daintree Rainforest in person? It’s making a vicarious trip there, courtesy of Annie Seaton’s latest novel, Daintree. The gorgeous cover sets the mood, while the evocative descriptions of tropical birds, perfumed plants and rushing creeks will effortlessly transport you to this Queensland paradise. But even in paradise, there are sinister forces at work, threatening the pristine environment and those who would protect it.

After studying medicine at Sydney University and completing her qualifications in Queensland, Doctor Emma Porter has made a life for herself in the Daintree, practising holistic medicine. She’s even hoping to be chosen as the leader of an Outreach Program, establishing new medical clinics ‘up the Cape’. But just as Emma’s life seems to be settling into a pleasant routine, an old flame turns up in Dalrymple – Sydney doctor, Jeremy Langford, who is about to embark on his own tree change. The problem is that neither Emma nor Jeremy has quite let go of the past.

Over the course of the novel, you’ll become acquainted with a strong supporting cast led by Emma’s endearing bushie friend, George, and the indomitable Wilma Randall, an Aboriginal healer who lives in the heart of the rainforest and has introduced Emma to bush remedies. You’ll also meet Troy Greaves, the manager of the Rainforest Centre, who shares her interest in preserving the local flora and fauna. And there’s also a burly police constable by the name of Craig Anderson, who has been making a nuisance of himself with our Emma, and a supercilious pharmacist called Jock Newby, who considers her approach to medicine to be little more than quackery.

Meanwhile, the rainforest is under threat from human greed. And when George stumbles upon something suspicious, things become very nasty indeed. As the suspense intensifies, you’ll find yourself frantically turning the pages to find out exactly what’s going on and who’s responsible.

Annie Seaton Kakadu Sunset cover 480Like Annie’s previous novel, Kakadu Sunset, Daintree seamlessly blends romance and mystery to create a gripping story. In both books, the settings are so lovingly and vividly described that they become characters in their own right.

I recommend that you pack Daintree in your beach bag this summer – you’ll find it hard to put down. And I’m looking forward to the final book in the Porter Sisters trilogy – Dru’s story – in 2017.

Read my exclusive interview with Annie here.

Daintree is published by Pan Macmillan Australia and is available from all good bookshops.

 

Visit Annie's website.

Deborah O’Brien

29 November 2016


 

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

 Cover Inside Front cropped500

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

Please note - the paperback book is now SOLD OUT but the ebook is available on KOBO.

Monday, 24 October              Kensington Review: Chris McGuigan

Tuesday, 25 October              Annie Seaton
Cover 3DBook Image TRT

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


                                    SOLD OUT

 


 

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 


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