Updated May 5, 2003
In the forth-coming months a number of Kelly books are set to be released or re-released. We will be doing reviews and keeping you updated as to when the books hit the stands. For a extensive list of reviews, we recommend ironoutlaw.
Book News Review
Screenplay of the Gregor Jordan/Heath
Ledger movie 'Ned Kelly'.
Below is a review of the book of the screenplay 'Ned Kelly'. It is not a review of the movie, or the book it was based on ('Our Sunshine' by Robert Drewe). However as this screenplay is directly related to the movie, some comment on the storyline and its accuracy seems required first.
Reactions to this movie have
been almost identical to reactions when Peter Carey's book 'True History'
was released. Both have either been praised or maligned, with no room
in-between. It is worth looking at why fiction based of fact inspires
such powerful reactions. Seemingly some people want history presented
factually and accurately, and become concerned that the true story will
be lost if fictional accounts are written. Others, on the other hand,
prefer a 'folk law' quality and, while expecting the essence of the story
to be accurate, they want history re-told in new and imaginative ways.
In other words, those who hate it are concerned with facts and details
and thus probably prefer documentaries, whereas those who love it are
interested in the story's essence and so enjoy the narrative. For those
who fit the latter category this film and screenplay will suit your taste,
but those who identify with the former, neither is for you. There are
a number of historical inaccuracies in this version of the Kelly story
that are difficult for the more 'purist' Kelly historian to overlook.
It must be remembered, however, that neither the film nor the screenplay
(nor the book they were both based on), were ever meant to be documentaries,
and therefore should not be expected to be historically precise. (Note:
The only method of accurately retelling the true history of the Kelly
outbreak would be through an impartial documentary or history textbook.)
Included in this book is an interesting 'forward' by the film's director Gregor Jordan. In which he reveals the inspiration for making the film and explains why he chose McDonagh's screenplay of Drewe's novel in particular. He says, " The strange style of the novel, and the way John had woven this style into the script, was the key." He explains what he saw as some of the more difficult aspects of making a two hour movie about "Australia's greatest legend", and therefore how " any screenplay, no matter how good, must be a compromise".
By way of a brief summary of Ned's life, this book includes at the start, a history section by filmmaker and critic Peter Galvin. He provides a précis of the Kelly story (after researching it), and includes in his 'notes' a list of his sources. For those with little knowledge of the true events of this part of Australia's history, this section does provide a good, if simple, overview.
There are a few scenes in the screenplay that evidently, due to editing, presumably found their way no further than the 'cutting room' floor, but this is no doubt due to lack of time rather than poor scripting. Scenes missing from the film include; Constable Lonigan's 'blackballing' of Ned (thus the significance of Ned later shooting Lonigan is lost), along with a scene of Steve Hart arguing with Ned over the denied theft of the clergyman's watch, in which an irritated Ned throws him Sgt. Kennedy's watch for consolation. (This missing scene explains why Supt Hare later finds the watch in the ashes.) It would have been better had they been included (hopefully they will wind up on the DVD version when released), but in the meantime, it is nice to be able to read what was intended to be included, and to imagine the scenes had they made it into the film.
Along with the script are
simple details of all scenes, and some directions to the actors (e.g.
to indicate mood), which are very interesting to read. The book of the
screenplay is a must for any of the movie's fans, particularly as it includes
a number of close-up stills from the film, (some in colour, some in black
first published 5th May 2003