This was the official website for the Australian film, The Eye of the Storm. Content is from the site's 2011-2012 archived pages and other outside sources.

A film by Fred Schepisi From the novel by Patrick White

Random House Australia & Picador in the US are pleased to announce that The Eye of the Storm will be re-published to coincide with the theatrical release of Fred Schepisi's film in September 2011. Originally published 1973, The Eye of the Storm cemented Patrick White's reputation as one of the world's great modernist writers & culminated in his being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

With John Gaden, Colin Friels, Helen Morse, Robyn Nevin, Alexandra Schepisi & Maria Theodorakis

“Beautifully made, so elegant and emotionally complex and Judy Davis just floored me.”

– Rex Reed, NY OBSERVER

Now Playing 
Plimoth Cinema, Plymouth, MA
The Varsity Theater, Des Moines, IA
Coming soon to more select theaters across America...

 

In the Sydney suburb of Centennial Park, two nurses, a housekeeper and a solicitor attend to Elizabeth Hunter as her expatriate son and daughter convene at her deathbed. But in dying, as in living, Mrs Hunter remains a powerful force on those who surround her.

Based on the novel by Nobel Prize winner Patrick White, THE EYE OF THE STORM is a savage exploration of family relationships – and the sharp undercurrents of love and hate, comedy and tragedy, which define them.


From imdb.com

In a Sydney suburb, two nurses, a housekeeper and a solicitor attend to Elizabeth Hunter (Charlotte Rampling) as her expatriate son and daughter convene at her deathbed. In dying, as in living, Mrs. Hunter remains a formidable force on those around her. It is via Mrs Hunter’s authority over living that her household and children vicariously face death and struggle to give consequence to life.

Estranged from a mother who was never capable of loving them Sir Basil (Geoffrey Rush), a famous but struggling actor in London and Dorothy (Judy Davis), an impecunious French princess, attempt to reconcile with her. In doing so they are reduced from states of worldly sophistication to fl oundering adolescence.

The children unite in a common goal — to leave Australia with their vast inheritance. Moving through Sydney’s social scene, they search for a way to fulfi l their desire. Using the reluctant services of their family lawyer Arnold Wyburd (John Gaden), a man long in love with Mrs Hunter, they scheme to place their mother in a society nursing home to expedite her demise.

Panic sets in as the staff sense the impending end of their eccentric world. Mrs Hunter confesses her profound disappointment at failing to recreate the state of humility and grace she experienced when caught in the eye of a cyclone fi fteen years earlier.

For the first time in their lives, the meaning of compassion takes the children by surprise. During a ferocious storm Mrs Hunter fi nally dies, not through a withdrawal of will but by an assertion of it. In the process of dying she re-lives her experience in the cyclone. Standing on a beach, she is calm and serene as devastation surrounds her.

 

 

Reviews

The Eye of the Storm: Film Review

3:00 AM PDT 7/23/2011 by Megan Lehmann

Superb performances by Judy Davis, Geoffrey Rush and Charlotte Rampling anchor the caustic social observations and dark yet incandescent wit in Fred Schepisi's adaptation of Australian Nobel laureate Patrick White’s acclaimed novel.

SYDNEY — Prodigal son Fred Schepisi corrals a collection of top-shelf talent for The Eye of the Storm, an intelligent, visually sumptuous drama that embraces the grandeur of the Australian literary classic upon which it’s based.

Stately as the magnificent Sydney mansion in which Charlotte Rampling’s aging socialite lies theatrically dying while her spoiled children (Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis) pick over their inheritance, Schepisi’s first local feature since 1988’s Evil Angels(known as A Cry in the Darkin other territories) largely manages to transcend its disagreeable subject matter.

It’s a tricky proposition at times. But superb performances by the central trio anchor the caustic social observations and dark yet incandescent wit of Nobel laureate Patrick White’s acclaimed 1973 novel.

Older audiences who appreciate genteel yet intensely dramatic storytelling will find much to applaud, although it’s difficult to see its appeal broadening beyond that demographic. The Eye of the Storm, which had its world premiere in Australian Showcase at the Melbourne International Film Festival, will open domestically September 15.

All the money in the world can’t buy you a happy childhood, and the petulant, domineering Elizabeth Hunter (Rampling) ensured her two children had a particularly loveless upbringing.

Now they’ve come home and Basil (Rush), an expatriate stage actor with a knighthood and a narcissistic bent, and his awkward, bird-like sister, Dorothy (Davis), whose failed marriage into the French nobility has left her with the title Princess de Lascabanes, still bear the scars.

On her deathbed, Elizabeth remains a destructive force, tormenting her cash-strapped offspring by continuing to live extravagantly and handing out jewels and prized possessions to the nurses and attentive household staff who orbit her fading star.

Patrick White’s novel, the first of his to be adapted for the screen, underwent shifts in time and perspective as it explored the life of this feared and revered woman through her various relationships. The screenplay, by Judy Morris (Happy Feet, Babe: Pig in the City), brings the two adult children into sharper focus, while maintaining the intricate dance between past and present, aided by Schepisi’s interplay of light and shadow as Elizabeth drifts in and out of lucidity. Morris does a fine job preserving the cadences of White’s sharp-edged dialogue.

Less successful is the translation to the screen of the spiritual epiphany Elizabeth once experienced during a violent tropical storm on a Queensland island. This seems central to the layering of Elizabeth’s character and feeds into the complex stumble towards redemption experienced by this dysfunctional family. But the film wobbles a bit in conveying its impact.

It’s a flaw easily overlooked when you’ve got national treasure Davis in one of her finest, most affecting performances, Rush deftly weighing aging playboy against damaged little boy and a gimlet-eyed Rampling, entrancing still beneath wigs and ageing makeup.

Even the minor roles are solidly filled by a terrific Australian cast, which includes Robyn Nevin, Colin Friels and Helen Morse (Picnic at Hanging Rock), almost unrecognizable as Elizabeth’s housekeeper Lotte, a Holocaust survivor who desperately strives to entertain her incapacitated employer with extravagant performances of Weimar cabaret. 

Schepisi’s daughter, Alexandra, holds her own as an attractive young nurse named Flora, one of a handful of characters who ultimately reflect the Hunter family’s bourgeois silliness back at them.

Melinda Doring’s production design evokes a world of chauffeured Bentleys and kangaroo-fur stoles inhabited by a wannabe colonial aristocracy, while Ian Baker’s rich cinematography lends a lustrous sheen. Paul Grabowsky’s score is just what the doctor ordered.

Venue: Melbourne International Film Festival
Production company: Paper Bark Films
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Charlotte Rampling, Robyn Nevin, Colin Friels, Helen Morse, Alexander Schepisi
Director: Fred Schepisi
Screenwriter: Judy Morris
Based on the book by: Patrick White
Producers: Antony Waddington, Gregory Read
Executive producers: Jonathan Shteinman, Edward Simpson
Director of photography: Ian Baker
Production designer: Melinda Doring
Costume designer: Terry Ryan
Music: Paul Grabowsky
Editor: Kate Williams
Sales: The Little Film Company        
No rating, 114 minutes

IMDb REVIEWS


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A solid adaptation of Oz classic

Author: Philby-3 from Sydney, Australia
28 July 2011

Patrick White put Australia on the literary map by winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973, but his rich dense style did not make for a best-selling author. This film, an adaptation of White's novel, marks the first time anyone has succeeded in filming a White novel, though he wrote the screenplay for a curious piece directed by Jim Sharman, "The Night the Prowler" in 1977. Director Fred Schepisi said at the preview I attended that it was a challenge to film the allegedly unfilmable; if it had been easy it would have not been worth doing. Yet despite the style White was rather a theatrical author, and Judy Morris's screenplay accurately reflects White's mordant wit. His characters are acting their way through life and there is drama in almost every scene.

Old Mrs Elizabeth Hunter, widow of a wealthy grazier, is nearing the end of her days in some splendour in her Centennial Park, Sydney, mansion, and her two children have been summoned to her bedside. Her son Basil, once a leading actor on the London stage whose career is now in decline and her daughter Dorothy, the ex-wife of a minor French aristocrat, are motivated more by their possible inheritance than affection for the old lady. In fact Elizabeth inspires more affection in her nurses, solicitor and housekeeper than she does in her children. Dorothy in particular has cause to hate her mother, yet it is she who gets closer to her as the film progresses.

Schepisi manages to blend in the dark humour of the situation with the downbeat storyline. The cinemaphotograhy is gorgeous and the cutting, often without the usual establishment shots, wonderfully done, given the extensive use made of flashbacks – you instantly realise where the characters are. The book's interior monologues often appear as a single image in a single screen. The casting is such as Geoffrey Rush mentioned at the preview that he could not refuse – the very best of the Australian acting profession, though the pivotal role of Elizabeth Hunter is played with great panache by Charlotte Rampling. Rush plays Basil as a man who takes himself seriously, but can't persuade anyone else to. Judy Davis simmers as the disillusioned Dorothy , and John Gaden as Wyburd the family solicitor with a skeleton or to in his own cupboard is pitch perfect. Flora the day nurse, played by Schepsi's daughter Alexandra, is vividly realised, and there are good performances in minor roles also, including Helen Morse, unrecognisable, as Lotte the tragic housekeeper, and Colin Friels as a Labor politician on the make rather reminiscent of one Robert James Lee Hawke. The only odd casting decision is casting Melbourne locations as Sydney. Mrs Hunter's mansion is definitely not in Sydney and only a couple of brief scenes are shot in Centennial Park.

It has been opined that "The Eye of the Storm" is Patrick White in drag, and it is true that there are some obvious personal aspects to the story - there is a lot of White's mother in Mrs Hunter. Set as it is in the early 1970s in the declining old money grazier milieu, this film could be written off as a period piece. Yet Schepisi has managed to capture both the theme and atmosphere of the novel. The difficulties of dying have rarely been so well depicted on film. This may not be a box office smash, but it will appeal to anyone who likes a solid piece of film-making.

 

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sit down and fasten your seatbelt...

Author: ptb-8 from Australia
3 October 2011

It quite simply is a miracle of old money that this film exists. Not since the 'International cinema days' of the 80s has Australian film making produced such a splendid and intelligent film. If your cinema going has included such Australian quality films as CAREFUL HE MIGHT HEAR YOU or WE OF THE NEVER NEVER or PHAR LAP or MY BRILLIANT CAREER, or you yearn for the qualities of those, then EYE OF THE STORM is for you. The deep credits of 'extra thanks' detail who put money up for this, and every dollar of the $15m spent is on screen. Also reminiscent of great WB dramas of the 40s or even as literary as ALL ABOUT EVE, this new film from Fred Schepisi is prestige film making and a presentation of emotional intelligence of an era and a lifestyle that still exists in old moneyed mansions and bitter family brittleness. I live across the road from the avenue of Centennial Park mansions where the film is set, and I can vouch that there are streets of them in Sydney. Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis are impeccable and with Charlotte Rampling as Mother/monster make a three headed hydra of drama. The art direction and set design is as much a feature of the film as is Patrick White's bitter pill dialogue and the acting and casting itself. A feast for stage drama and theatre lovers, EYE OF THE STORM is (hooray!) an Australian film that is intelligent bitter and absorbing.

 

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How to make an absorbing movie

Author: brimon28 from Canberra, Australia
24 October 2011

Patrick White earned a Nobel Prize for literature. Having read only one of his novels and found it 'heavy', I was keen to see what someone could do to The Eye of the Storm. Given the director was Fred Schepisi, I knew it would be 'different'. First find a screenwriter. Judy Morris is an accomplished actor. I expected to see an 'actor's' film, with great lines and self-evident visuals. Yes, Judy Morris can write, and rather more clearly than Patrick White. Look for her in one of the scenes! Next find a cast. "Storm' has brilliant people. To nominate just one, Helen Morse proves that she can sing and dance, skills that I'd not seen before. Rush and Rampling carry the action, with Alexandra, Schepisi's daughter, a clever foil. Judy Davis has a face that seems to accommodate any role.

No, I won't be reading this novel. What we see here is a great motion picture. We've become accustomed to Australian films depicting poverty, isolation, and mayhem. This has an air of opulence and connectedness.

 

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A Powerful Story, Difficult to Capture on Film


Author: gradyharp from United States
11 September 2012

THE EYE OF THE STORM has so much going for it that it seems a shame that it likely will not draw audiences in the theaters now that it has been released in this country. Thanks to Amazon's Video on Demand it can be watched in the home without the usual distractions of the theater audience more interested in texting and eating than in being willing to follow a strong story for two hours. It is another jewel of a film from Australia and perhaps in art houses it will be appreciated.

The story is adapted by Judy Morris from the Nobel Prize winning novel by Patrick White (1912 -1990), an Australian author who is widely regarded as one of the most important English-language novelists of the 20th century. White's fiction employs humor, florid prose, shifting narrative vantage points and a stream of consciousness technique. In 1973, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the only Australian to have been awarded the prize. 'The Eye of the Storm' is the ninth published novel by Patrick White and it is regarded as one of his best novels.

The elderly Elizabeth Hunter (Charlotte Rampling), widow of a wealthy grazier, is nearing the end of her days in some splendor in her mansion in Sydney, Australia, and her two children have been summoned to her bedside. Her son Basil (Geoffrey Rush), once a leading actor on the London stage whose career is now in decline and her daughter Dorothy (Judy Davis), the ex-wife of a minor French aristocrat whose fractured marriage has ended with her only asset being the retention of her title of Princess, are motivated more by their possible inheritance than affection for the old lady. In fact Elizabeth inspires more affection in her nurses (Alexandra Schepisi, Maria Theodorakis), her solicitor (John Gaden) and her tragic cabaret- entertaining housekeeper (Helen Morse) than she does in her children. Helen Morse has a funny scene in which she is cleaning the kitchen with several mop buckets one full of soapy water and the other clean water which end up be spilled when a stray dog chases the household cat in the outside door and out through to the hallway. The cat circles back through the kitchen disappearing into the back yard. The expression on the housekeeper's face is priceless. Coincidently, I have those exact same Rubbermaid buckets with wheels. I'd say that Rubbermaid had a great "placement" in the film.

Dorothy in particular has cause to hate her mother for secrets not immediately revealed ('Dorothy was breathless with resentment for what she herself could no more than half-remember, had perhaps only half discovered - on the banks of the ocean'), yet it is she who gets closer to her mother as the film progresses. Elizabeth is a shrewishly controlling woman and her descent into dementia only reminds everyone involved with her of the damaged childhood, marriage and life she has led. The manner in which the story come to an end is somewhat surprising and in many ways rewards the viewer for the attention it takes.

The film is laid out in flashback scenes to manage the histories of all involved and the interior monologues that slowly build the full images of each f the characters and their inherent flaws. The acting is excellent, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the story is fascinating. If it doesn't exactly match the density of the novel by White then the ones who seem to be responsible of that are the director Fred Schepisi and the screenwriter Judy Morris. It is a tough story and if the viewer can maintain the level of concentration the film demands, then this is a most satisfying experience.

Grady Harp

 

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Fascinating


Author: selffamily from New Zealand
16 November 2013

I bought this DVD on a whim and last night sat down to watch it. I've long been a fan of the three main actors, so knew it would be worthwhile, and could be stunning. I was not disappointed. Charlotte Rampling has always excelled in playing the really nasty person you can't imagine ever meeting, and in this she does not disappoint. It's unfortunate that she is not in her eighties or even seventies, because as one reviewer has noted, she's only a few years older than her 'children' in this. Geoffrey Rush is like chocolate, smooth and irresistible, and he uses this charm, but also reveals himself as a loser (we're talking character here) and with vulnerabilities. Judy Davis tries to be a hard-bitten bitch but until the end wants her mother to love her.

True, the carers of the old woman love her more than her children - as is so often the case - and the lawyer and his wife straddle the divide between the two attitudes. It's a fascinating human story, with the flashbacks being non-intrusive and essential to the story. I loved it, but I've not read the book or know any of the background aspects. I don't enjoy the cinema so much nowadays, so to watch a good quality drama on the appliance in the corner is a joy.

 

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Rampling's the best thing about it


Author: euroGary from United Kingdom
28 August 2013

'The Eye of the Storm' has Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis returning from overseas to visit their ailing mother (unprobably played by Charlotte Rampling) who lives in a big house where the staff are there for her entertainment as much as to care for her. I've mixed feelings about this; I like a good drama, but some parts of it are decidedly iffy (for instance, a flashback featuring Rampling and Davis has the latter looking older than the woman playing her mother!) Rush probably over-eggs the pudding in his role as an old thesp, but Davis is good as the dissatisfied wife of a French prince (? I thought they didn't have those anymore). Rampling is superb: I don't usually rate her as an actress - her performances are almost always so studied she can never convince me she's not acting - but here she really sinks her teeth into the role of an old woman who knows her children's main interest in her is when she's going to die.

 

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Too slow and uninteresting. 2/10


Author: leonblackwood from United Kingdom
21 September 2013

Review: I found this movie to be really slow and pretty boring. The storyline wasn't that amazing but the acting was quite good. I must admit, I did struggle to find anything that interesting with the film and I did struggle to stay awake. By the end of the film I was left feeling quite empty and dissatisfied which is a shame because I usually like Geoffrey Rush movies. I didn't really know what to expect from the film so I wasn't that disappointed. At nearly 2 hours long, I was expecting something amazing to happen, but nothing really did. Disappointed!

Round-Up: Judging by the money that this movie made, it's obvious that I am not the only person that found this film to drag. I was hoping that movie was going to take a different direction, but it stays uninteresting and in some ways, quite boring. Geoffrey Rush does make the movie slightly more watchable, but he wasn't able to save the film.

Budget:N/A Worldwide Gross: $84,000

I recommend this movie to people who are into there drama's about a lady whose on her death bed, surrounded by her son and daughter. 2/10

 

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As dull as a hot afternoon in a 1960's English Class

Author: busta rimes from Australia
5 November 2011

I can't see anyone under 50 even being remotely interested in this "Patrick White In Drag" type film (to quote another IMDb user). The 2 hours reminded me of those hours spent in non air- conditioned portable classrooms (for me, in the late 60's) wading through arcane English literature classes wherein Patrick White was regarded as "worthy"...or "significant".

"Storm" has all the features we have come to expect from "quality" Australian film-making - a great cast, polished direction, impeccable production values etc etc ... but it's as dull and disconnected as the world White writes about. Who really gives a stuff about an imploding grazing family presided over by a a dying monster ... nominally set in the 1970s, but really (as in most of White's writing) set in the 1930s?

On a $15m budget ... it probably needs a world wide gross of $100m to break even. Ye Gods - who green-lit this? How much Government funding went into it? (Its $1.6m domestic gross should just about pay for the Prints and Advertising" budget & little more).

We have a bustling new generation - make that two generations - of film-makers pushing the envelope and making "Animal Kingdom", "Daybreakers", "Red Dog" etc who seem to be at least aware of their audience and their responsibility for getting a return for their investors. Film-making is an expensive business ... and "Storm" is just a sad old melodrama, outdated, over-priced and isolated from the real world, doomed to fail financially. I can understand why audiences congratulate themselves for having sat through it ("splendid and intelligent" - another IMDb post), but it's just an Anglo middle class statement from people who are longing for the days of "Careful He Might Hear You" or "The Devil's Playground".

At least the English Class in those old portables only lasted 50 minutes...

 

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