Under the Lighthouse Dancing

Kendal Finlay

Australian Revival Cinema Assignment

Under the Lighthouse Dancing- Film Information
Romance, Drama
Lotteries Commission of West Australia/Silver Turtle,
Colour; PG; 93 min

Harry Jack Thompson
Emma Jacqueline McKenzie
David Aden Gillett
Louise Naomi Watts
Garth Phillip Holder
Juliet Zoe Bertram

Director Graeme Rattigan
Producer David Giles
Screenplay David Giles & Graeme Rattigan
Executive Producers Suridah Jalaluddin, Graeme Rattigan & David Giles
Director of Photography Paul Murphy A.C.S.
Production Designer Laurence Eastwood
Costume Designer Jacqueline Allen
Music Nerida Tyson-Chew
Film Editor David Stiven
Line Producer Jane Scott
Sound Supervisor Wayne Pashley

Release Dates
Opened in Perth only on one screen - September 25, 1997
Adelaide, Sydney & Brisbane - October 16, 1997.
Released theatrically overseas in 1998 - Japan (Cinema Ten)
Spain (Telegroup)

Research Methods
My research on this film was on the Internet. I mainly found most of the information needed by search engine yahoo.com.au. I then went to H231 website to find other useful links and found it a helpful Media Database. Another search engine I used was google and to my surprise found that there was just as many Naomi Watts links as there were to Under the Lighthouse Dancing. I searched all these sites by applying 'Under the Lighthouse Dancing' as my key method.

Internet Review Links
Doug MacLean's review-
Must subscribe to become Gold Member to view-
Reviewer Dov Kornits shares his disapproval to the film-
SBS Movie Show Margaret Pomeranz-
Another rave review-
Discuss with other users or approach the message board of the film-

Cast and Crew-
Must subscribe to view interviews-

Cast and Crew History
Worked in Australian theatre, television and film for over 25 years. The Man From Snowy River; Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence; Sunday Too Far Away; The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith; Burke and Wills; Waterfront; Rainbow Warrior; A Woman of Independent Means & The Last Dance are a number of films that he has starred in. Breaker Morant, he won Best Actor Award (AFI, 1981), Best Supporting Actor (Cannes, 1980), and The Sum of Us, for which he won the 1994 Australian Film Critics Circle Award as Best Actor.

Jacqueline McKenzie graduated from NIDA in 1990. Had starring roles in several theatrical productions, one being Hamlet. Named Best Actress at the 1992 Stockholm Film Festival for Romper Stomper. Angel Baby followed which won seven 1995 AFI Awards, including Best Film and Best Actress for herself. Other feature films are Talk; This Won't Hurt A Bit, Trap; Mr. Reliable and the mini-series The Battlers.

British actor Aden Gillett trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. His role as Jack Maddox in the BBC TV series House of Elliott, achieved him international recognition. Other television series he starred included My Clay, Mr. Clay, Ending Up; The Free Frenchman, theatrical productions including Too Clever By Half and The Tempest; Twelfth Night; The Cit; The Importance of Being Earnest; All's Well That Ends Well; Great Expectations; The Admiral Crichto; An Inspector Calls (awarded the Theatre World Award as Best Newcomer on Broadway).

British-born actress Naomi Watts, Australian film credits include Matinee; For Love Alone; The Custodian; Flirting; ABC mini-series Brides of Christ; and the feature Gross Misconduct and Wide Sargasso Sea. Based in Hollywood for the past few years, she has appeared in Tank Girl and the successful box-office hit, The Ring. Watts has just completed the film Dream Factory and Bermuda Triangle. If the telemovie Bermunda Triangle becomes a ratings success in the US, it will be turned into a 5-year television series.

GRAEME RATTIGAN Director/Co-writer
Director Graeme Rattigan was a barrister and solicitor in 1972 for the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Also a graduate of the Australian Film and Television School's for Film Director's, Rattigan had the largest law practice in Perth. In 1987, he appeared in The Rising of Pete Marsh; co-wrote, co-directed and starred in Cities (1989) and produced Heartbreak House (1994). From 1990 to 1995, Rattigan conducted Feldenkrais workshops with members of the Queensland Ballet, Sydney Dance Company and students from the Western Australian academy of Performing Arts.

DAVID GILES Producer/Co-writer
British born David Giles graduated from Oxford University and has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from the Film School of Concordia University in Montreal. Giles wrote and produced a fifteen part series, which was broadcast in Brisbane on Channel Nine. He co-wrote a script called, A Voice Cries Out, which formed the basis of the Bruce Beresford film, Paradise Road, in which Giles was the co-executive producer.

PAUL MURPHY A.C.S. Director of Photography
Paul Murphy, being one of Australia's most talented cinematographers has also worked on several American feature films. Feature film credits include Mighty Morphin Power Rangers; Dallas Doll; Blue Desert; Emerald City; Dead End Drive In; Bliss and Tunnel Vision. Murphy shot a virtual reality interactive game, Supreme Warrior for Digital Pictures Inc.

Australian Revival Cinema Assignment

Plot and Critical Commentary
Based on the true story Under the Lighthouse Dancing brings together three couples for a luxurious sailing trip to Rottnest Island, Western Australia. Harry (THOMPSON) and Emma (McKENZIE) are to surprise their friends who have reunited to celebrate their Wedding. Eventually we discover that the bride-to-be, Emma, is seriously ill. Emma looks upon this holiday as not only a celebration of Harry and herself love, but a celebration of her life. Emma, is a strong character who lives for the moment and her partner Harry, is cared for through her stay on the island by her friends and one particular being a doctor. Despite several attempts of preparing for the wedding, Harry is running out of time to present this dream Wedding for his bride. Friend's who have been invited to the wedding and the population of the whole island become involved and present a spectacular and unforgettable wedding.

Critical Uptake
Harry and Emma are the two main characters in the film. Their performance is as good as the script allows them to perform. The more natural characters are Louise (Watts) and David (Gillett), who both happen to be single and end up falling in love on this 'magical' island with each other. However, Garth (Holder) and Juliet's (Bertram) characters seem to be just tossed in there to fill up the space in the background. No introduction is really made into their characters, and it almost feels like there not really part of the group of friends. All we need to know about this couple is that one happens to be a doctor. How appropriate is that for Emma? I believe that more time was needed in the film to construct and develop the characters of this group of friends.

'Other than the revelations, a nice feel-good movie. Should have ended the film at the party'. http://www.cs.newcastle.edu.au/~richard/interests/movies/reviews/under_the_lighthouse_dancing.html

'New filmmakers stuck for ideas, come up with a romantic tragi-comedy based on a real event'. ANDREW L. URBAN http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=479&s=Features

'No one likes to get unintentional laughs from an Australian movie. Especially one which tries every trick in the tearjerker manual. Unfortunately this romantic tragedy, with its underwritten characters and contrived sense of fantasy, will make you weep from laughter rather than sorrow…Under the Lighthouse Dancing rarely transcends these obvious limitations, but fortunately for all involved, at least it's quickly forgotten'.
Dov Kornits

'One of the best things about small. Independent films is how great they relay emotion. They don't have the budget for special effects. Often they can not afford large stars. They have to rely upon talent to get the message across. Under the Lighthouse Dancing is an excellent example of such a small film. Small in budget and perhaps audience but very large on talent, construction and emotional impact'.

The true beauty about Under the Lighthouse Dancing is definitely the scenery. Rottnest Island's beauty complemented every scene that was perfectly planned. Every shot is perfectly planned. It is not at all inappropriate to say that Rottnest Island's scenery is a member of the cast. The cinematography and set design are so well detailed and appropriate for the film that you wouldn't mind at all to have your last days living on this breathe taking Island. I often felt like an outsider watching this film because we didn't really have any progression into the characters emotions. 'One of the best casts ever assembled in Australia', says Rattigan. I agree with this statement but it is a shame about the script. It is not a horrible or painful film to watch, each scene was amazing visually and what was around the corner was worth watching. The storyline was very predictable but it was how it was going to end is what made me sit to the finale.

Production Circumstances

It is very difficult without box-office figures for the film to tell what was the reaction from the Australian audience. However, through film reviews on this film present on the Internet, it was shown that the majority of the audience disliked the film. A screenplay by Giles and Rattigan, Under the Lighthouse Dancing is based on a true story as told to Rattigan a couple of years earlier. In September 1994, both Giles and Rattigan were on Rottnest Island working on another project when he told Giles the story that happened on the very same Island. Giles was so touched by the story, that they both decided this had to be their next project and sat down to write twenty scenes in note form, with a collection of poetic justice mixed into it.

Giles and Rattigan set a target shoot date of October 16th,from the availability of accommodation on the Island for the cast and crew. Having paid for the accommodation, they finished the first draft for the film and set about raising the finance. Photography began earlier in 1995 for an eight-week duration. Being first-time director and producer, encouragement in Australia was not offered. 'People were prepared to finance us providing we took on another director and producer and fired ourselves! We weren't prepared to do that,' says Rattigan. Under The Lighthouse Dancing making it the first Australian film to be so entirely financed by Asian investors privately. Meeting the right people in Singapore, Rattigan and Giles were able to raise the money. From there, the twosome searched for the right cast and crew for the job. Eastwood designed the beach house that the six friends holidayed in, where much of the film was shot. Eastwood searched for the right place on the Island, designing it in three days and building it in six weeks. 'It needed to be soft-edged and flexible for filming and to do justice to its surrounds,' says Eastwood. After filming, the house was auctioned and relocated elsewhere by the new owners.

Uptake and Current place of Australian Cinema

Under the Lighthouse Dancing didn't receive quite a positive critical response resulting in not a high response by the Australian audience. It was no surprise that there was no interest internationally. Its only international screening was at the 1997 Cannes International Film Festival.

http://hometheaterinfo.com/underthe.htm website informs that Under the Lighthouse Dancing is not currently available on DVD or VHS and to keep an eye on cable listings. It also states that the producer of this film is making a videotape of it to become available.

The Medium Sized English Language Cinema

Under the Lighthouse Dancing was screened at Cannes. The Cannes International Film Festival is one of the world's most influential film festival's and for this film to represent Australia must of meant that the audience thought well of it, especially in 1997 where Cannes celebrated its 50th anniversary. The film relies on emotion and the great scenic attraction of Australia. It shows how an Australian community pulls together to organize something special for a couple who are in love and will find tragedy in their near future. This film is to 'small' to be released in America to compete against the 'Hollywood' blockbuster. It is to real and to some means slow in respect to the build up and the presentation of the storyline. Six friends that go on a holiday expecting laughter in the white sand and crystal clear water are delighted to find out that their friend is getting married but are then devastated to find out that she is dying at the same time does not have it to succeed against the 'Hollywood' blockbuster.

Bibliography and Links

All the information I collected on the film came from the following websites:












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