Right, let’s get the confession off up front. I haven’t read Christos Tsiolkas’ 2005 novel, Dead Europe. I haven’t even read The Slap, and nor did I catch the ABC adaptation. The constant bombardment of previews put me off it before it even aired. I did love 1998 cult queer hit Head On, starring Alex Dimitriades and Paul Capsis, adapted from his debut novel Loaded. Didn’t read hat either though.
I am, however, willing to put down a great deal of money betting that Dead Europe ran for at least slightly more than 10 pages, and was fleshed out with character development and intriguing plot. Not so this frustratingly flummoxing cinematic adaptation by Tony Krawitz, who won the Short Fiction Film AFI award for Jewboy in 2005.
To say this film offers the bare bones of a story would be an understatement. Barley clocking up 80 minutes, this is less a tale of economic storytelling and more a confused jumble of random images stripped of any sense of meaning and depth. Seemingly random occurrence is king.
Jewboy’s Ewen Leslie again takes the lead role, this time as Isaac, a Greek Australian photographer who sets out to return his father’s ashes to the motherland. A chance encounter with a down-and-out young lad, played by up-and-comer Kodi Smit-McPhee, uncovers a dark history Isaac would rather not know.
The budget must have been pretty big, as the film skips rapidly from Melbourne to Athens, on to Paris and then Budapesht, hardly bothering to establish each city, instead preferring to rely on an excruciatingly hipster’s eye view of grim and gritty back streets.
Character’s behave inexplicably; scenes jump about on ADD; sex happens randomly, and preferably in as seedy circumstances as possible. Child abuse is strongly suggested, but little effort made to convey a clear message.
In one scene, Isaac stands in front of a group of Greek men and pierces his finger with his father’s Communist Party badge, sucking his own blood, for no apparent reason. When the film ends, it has hardly bothered to explore the creeping supernatural undercurrent, leaving us none the wiser, and not in an open-ended, thought-provoking way. This is confused, amateur and ultimately tediously shallow stuff.
Stephen A Russell