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Australia, 1996 (MIFF 1996, Australian Panorama)

Director: John Hillcoat

The romantic melodrama is not a common genre in Australian cinema, but then John Hillcoat is not your average Australian filmmaker, as evidenced by his first feature, the internationally acclaimed Ghosts Of The Civil Dead (MIFF 88) Eight years later, again working with writer Gene Conkie, Hillcoat has fashioned a full-blooded modern melodrama haunted by the ghosts of Hitchcock and Conrad, and set in the steamy tropics of Papua New Guinea.

The film begins in Melbourne, where Jack has gone on business after the accidental death of his wife. Rose. When he meets, and charms, Kate, an up and coming romance novelist, there is always the nagging doubt that he is simply seeking a replacement for Rose. The two return to his Sepik River home, (where Jack makes a living showing violent action movies to the villagers), but very soon Kate is thrown into the intense maelstrom of Jack's secrets and obsessions-probably not quite the adventure she had in mind.

Hillcoat's command of the cinematic elements is unquestioned here and he has support of the highest order in the ravishing, meticulously crafted frames of Andrew de Groot's cinematography and Chris Kennedy's production design, complimented by Dean Gawen's bold sound design.

Jack and Kate are simply doomed to be consumed by their environment, in this truly anarchic, remote locale Romantic obsession is the name of this game, and To Have and To Hold is a brooding, black romance that delves into the darker side of romantic love and the myths surrounding it. (TB)

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