Film Review: DEAD EUROPE

This film ignites the brain, especially from a writers perspective. The story briskly advances as the protagonist unravels - there's never a dull moment ...Naomi Rossdeutscher


On 15 June, I visited the Mac store in Sydney, to hear a 'Meet the Film Makers' talk - part of the Sydney Film Festival, where Emile Sherman, a Producer of DEAD EUROPE and (one of the Producers of THE KINGS SPEECH) explained how he contacted Tony Krawitz after seeing his award winning film JEW BOY, to see if Tony wanted to work on a film with him. What a film makers fantasy that is, lets hope Emile Sherman gives me a call - I've got two feature film scripts ready to go and I'm currently working on two more, although I doubt he's seen my short film SOUL MATES (although it did win the audience award at Flickerfest and was nominated for an IF Award, just in case you're reading this E. Sherman)

Enough about me & on with the story... Writer Louise Fox was brought in to adapt the book, DEAD EUROPE, written by Christos Tsiolkas, and then the seriously accomplished Producer Liz Watts, joined them. Liz recently produced LORE with Tony's wife Cate Shortland and both films were in SFF competition against each other, a lucky family of film makers. The films both deal with discovering a family lie & anti-Semitism, both are confronting and were filmed mostly in Europe, but otherwise they are entirely different films.

DEAD EUROPE is about an Australian man who insists on sprinkling his fathers ashes in his homeland of Greece, where he discovers a dark family secret and consequent curse. He attempts to turn his fate around by saving a young boy, but his plan spirals out of his control and fate takes hold of his destiny. The film features family struggles, racism, drugs, gay sex and people trafficking. The performances are passionate and gutsy.

The team just happened to be filming in Paris at the time of the 2011 riots when Krawitz suggested the lead actor Ewen Lesley, walk out onto the street while the cinematographer follows. He then suggested Ewen, in character, take some photos - a real danger as they'd heard journalists were being targeted. But it all worked out in the end and the footage is powerful.

Ewen Lesley has compelling screen presence, you can see how completely he threw himself into his performance. It must be confronting for him to watch, being in almost every scene.

A highlight for me is the cameo performance of Marton Csokas, it's pure gold, but of course I'm not surprised, Csokas is always riveting.

Emile Sherman tried to convince Lizz Watts to join the project by pointing out she will already be in Europe, working on LORE. Watts agreed it was a benefit, but wouldn't recommend doing two films at the same time. I imagine it would have sent her screaming into the void, but she looked to have all her faculties in check.

DEAD EUROPE has a doco feel to the camera movement, but is lit and framed for cinema. It shows a side of European cities that is easily seen but often ignored. Although rich in beauty and culture there is a dark undercurrent and savage, terrible things are happening all around. This film ignites the brain, especially from a writers perspective. The story briskly advances as the protagonist unravels and there's never a dull moment.

TRANSMISSION FILMS is distributing DEAD EUROPE and there will be an Australian release after doing the rounds of the Festivals.

I remember Bryan Brown saying that one of the benefits of making Australian films is they must have a release, so we get to see the great films and the not as impressive ones made here, where as a glut of films made in the US are never released, so we only see a small percentage, I guess that's what's believed to be the cream of the crop, or already has an audience - if based on a book. Man, it would really suck if you poured your heart and soul into a film only to have it shelved. And it makes me wonder how many of those films, never released, audiences are pining for. You can't say audiences decide what movies should be made by their film going choices, when the choices are being limited. Thankfully we have film festivals, online movies and Independent films to indulge in... and indulge I have.