ISABELLE EBERHARDT (1991) [Feature]

Australia/France (MIFF 1991 )
Director: Ian Pringle

We are pleased to present the World Premiere of Melbourne filmmaker Ian Pringle's long-awaited account of the celebrated turn-of-the-century European adventuress, writer and proto-feminist, Isabelle Eberhardt.

Together with his collaborator, (prominent Australian playwright) Stephen Sewell, Pringle has wisely chosen to avoid the restrictive confines of a birth-to-death biography. They have instead fashioned an involving interior drama, focusing on the final four years of Eberhardt's turbulent existence. This is the period when Isabelle (Mathilda May) returns to North Africa, ostensibly to track down a missing right-wing eccentric, the Marquis de Moyes. Eberhardt operates as a kind of free-roving desert correspondent, outraging authorities both with her published accounts exposing the corruption of the French militia, and also with her rebellious behaviour as an independent, self-styled woman in an exclusively male domain.

Isabelle's adventures in the field embroil her in adventures of the heart. She encounters Slimene (Tcheky Karo), an Arab foot soldier and the charming, enigmatic Major Lyautey (Peter O'Toole). Torn between commitment to others and the impassioned force of her own headstrong will, Isabelle conducts an intense, internal power struggle. Ultimately, external events prove literally overwhelming in a spectacular and moving finale.

Director's Note: "Isabelle had a prodigious intellect and wanted to be a writer. She was fluent in five languages and became intoxicated with the Occidental. She found in that a way to escape, a way to freedom. The greatest challenge in writing the script was dealing with a life that was so chaotic. It was only very late in the piece that i fully appreciated how melodramatic her life was - almost operatic. So i tried to push the film that way." - Ian Pringle

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