Bringing The Eye of the Storm to the screen involved the reunion of a filmmaking “family,” a brilliant bevy of old Oz hands from that heady era of filmmaking hailed as the Australian New Wave. Cast as the lead, legendary Charlotte Rampling is neck-deep in Australian acting royalty: Judy Davis (from My Brilliant Career, 1979, to Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love, 2012); Geoffrey Rush (from Children of the Revolution, 1996, with Davis, to The King’s Speech, 2010); as well as lesser lights such as Helen Morse (Picnic at Hanging Rock, 1975), honorary Aussie Colin Friels, Billie Brown, Dustin Clare (Gannicus in TV’s Spartacus), et al.
In 1978, Fred Schepisi’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith launched his successful directorial career abroad; Eye of the Storm is the first film he’s shot on home ground since the uncompromising A Cry in the Dark (1988). Nobel-winner Patrick White’s hefty novel was adapted for the screen by Judy Morris, so striking as the star of Peter Weir’s The Plumber (1979), and subsequently scripter of hits like Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City.
Morris’ two-hour adaptation has at its center—or eye—the long dying of wealthy matriarch Elizabeth Hunter (Rampling). A formidable personality, the old woman makes her bedroom a kind of theater, which estranged son Basil (Rush) and daughter Dorothy (Judy Davis) must attend, in hopes of cashing in on a much-needed inheritance. This trio of greater and lesser monsters—emasculating mother, narcissistic son, daughter bereft of joie de vivre—have at each other unlovingly, though it’s clear the aging kids desire nothing so much as the queen’s unqualified admiration. Well, except for her money.