Floating Life 4/06 ~ 11/07

an archive

Les Murray and The Widower (2005)


Widower in the country

I’ll get up soon, and leave my bed unmade.
I’ll go outside and split off kindling wood,
From the yellow-box log that lies beside the gate,
And the sun will be high, for I get up late now.
I’ll drive my axe in the log and come back in
With my armful of wood, and pause to look across
The Christmas paddocks aching in the heat,
The windless trees, the nettles in the yard…
And then I’ll go in, boil water and make tea.

This afternoon, I’ll stand out on the hill
And watch my house away below, and how
The roof reflects the sun and makes my eyes
Water and close on bright webbed visions smeared
On the dark of my thoughts to dance and fade away,
Then the sun will move on, and I will simply watch,
Or work, or sleep. And evening will draw in.

Coming on dark, I’ll go home, light the lamp
And eat my corned-beef supper, sitting there
At the head of the table. Then I’ll go to bed.
Last night I thought I dreamt – but when I woke
The screaming was only a possum skiing down
The iron roof on little moonlit claws.

Did you see this on ABC-TV on Christmas Eve? When they reviewed it in 2005 Margaret Pomerantz loved it and David Stratton hated it. I am more with Margaret, though I have not completely made up my mind. I really need to see it again. Margaret’s summary:

THE WIDOWER is a multi-arts initiative much in the style of ONE NIGHT THE MOON. It’s based on poetry by Les Murray and was co-written by Lyndon Terracini whose voice we hear in the songs composed by Elena Kats-Chernin.

The director was Kevin Lucas who was an executive producer on ONE NIGHT THE MOON and together with cinematographer Kim Batterham they’ve created a really really lovely experience.

It’s about the stifled relationship between a father and son, played by Chris Haywood and Matt Dyall, after the early death of a much loved wife and mother. The mother, Frances Rings was aboriginal so issues of race and belonging imbue the film.

And just pure longing. The boy returns to the homestead in the forest as a man where he’s confronted not only by the past but also by the impending death of his father.

The film is about the significance of a house, of objects, photos, people, place. I found THE WIDOWER a really pure and beautiful experience and a very moving one.

Chris Haywood was just brilliant, especially in the final scenes where his aging, more acting than make-up or special effects, was just too poignant. I could not help thinking of my own father’s last year: he died on Boxing Day 1989.


You see what I mean. The bush has never, I venture to say, been as beautifully evoked as it was in the brilliant camerawork of Kim Batterham, who you may recall also did Master and Commander. An experience I had as a child, a sense of a ghostly Aboriginal presence in the bush, was replicated in a scene early in the film, creepy it was so vivid, as is my memory of that experience. (I was an imaginative child. 😉 )

But I really wasn’t all that taken with the singing of some of the poems, even if I generally liked Elena Kats-Chernin’s soundtrack. I recognise that Murray really is a major poet, indeed possibly the best thing about Quadrant — he is the literary editor. You may visit Les Murray’s site where you can read quite a few of his poems.

“Widower in the country”, quoted above, and used in the film, comes, oddly enough, from a Japanese site where it comes with a linguistic analysis by systemic functional grammarian Ruqaiya Hasan, Halliday’s wife and partner in linguistics.

The final words of the movie are as good a statement of gut theology as you can get, though they won’t please everyone:

Snobs mind us off religion, nowadays, if they can. Fuck them. I wish you, God.

Site Meter

%d bloggers like this: