Tuesday, June 17, 2003

“After the Deluge”

Sunday and Monday night I trundled round to Beth’s to share perhaps the best television experience I have ever had.

(No, not Jo’s eviction from Big Brother.)

“After the Deluge” was an extremely important story, the story of three estranged brothers and their relationships (changing, stable or disintegrating) with the women in their lives, with each other and with their Alzheimers-afflicted father. It also spoke quietly but intensely about the meaning these men derived from their own families – both the family they were born into, and the family they themselves were in the process of making. A story we need to see portrayed more often.

The script of the first episode suffered a little, in that the women seemed to speak exclusively in clichés; their roles, however, improved a good deal in the concluding episode. This was, however, simply a by-product of the fact that this was not meant to be an even-handed drama, but a drama about the emotional lives of men – and “Deluge” was as well originally to be a partner-piece to Deb Cox’s 1997 ABC miniseries “Simone de Beauvoir’s Babies” about the reproductive struggles of three thirty-something single women (in which men were often fairly peripheral ciphers).

The extra time in production certainly didn’t hurt it, nor did the $6.4 million commercial budget, and a stellar Australian cast. The stand-out performances were legion, but among them Rachel Griffiths was predictably excellent and well-teamed with Hugo Weaving (who has never seemed so seedily sexy), David Wenham delivered every line as it was written for him alone and Samuel Johnson turned in a lovely character piece free from his irritating “Secret Life of Us” psuedo-philosophising and voice-over diction.

The stand out role in Andrew Knight’s script (assisted by “SeaChange” collaborator Deb Cox) went to Ray Barrett as the father: a man who can no longer separate memory and reality, who has always held from his family the piece of his past that best explains him, who married the wrong woman and for love of his sons gave up the life of which he most dreamed. The series was also notable for the wonderfully adroit way it visually mixed the father’s past and present, and segued from one to the other. The sense of memory impinging on environment, of the slow unlayering of a man’s past, was wonderfully realised. The show’s frank approach to all the characters’ sexuality at all stages of their lives was also excellent.

A gem, and extremely moving.

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