THE OLIVE TREE
Australia, 1975, 70 minutes, Colour.
John Adam, Alan Cassell, Faith Clayton.
Directed by Edgar Metcalfe.
The Olive Tree is a short West Australian feature written and produced by Elizabeth Backhouse. It is of interest in its themes but very limited in its appeal. The actors are competent but the direction makes them act as if they were working on a theatre stage. There are flashbacks in monochrome contrasting with the colour photography. However, the whole film gives the impression of beginner's work and an experiment rather than an accomplished achievement. Actor Alan Cassels, who was to appear to very good effect in such films as Cathy's Child, Breaker Morant and The Club, has a central role.
1. The impact of the film as an experimental feature? Short story? Study of characters? Contemporary situation?
2. The experimental aspects of the film: the direction and the staging, the contrivance of the acting and the screenplay? The quality of the colour photography? The contrast with the monochrome flashbacks? Editing and pace? The creation of moods? Dramatic confrontation?
3. The symbol of the olive tree? Its meaning of peace? The tree as a sign of contradiction in the family? The ironic memorial to Nico?
4. The immediate impact of the characters, the situation? Judgment on them? Change of opinion and estimation?
5. The establishing of the situation: the Ross farm, the father and his retiring, prospect of selling the farm? Judith and her claim for her share? Her wanting to marry Roberto? Lisa and her place on the farm? The promise of the dead Mrs. Ross? Lisa and her dislike of Judith? Her attachment to Roberto? Her memory of Nico? The prospect of Rita and Victor arriving and Lisa's hostility? The establishing of tensions? The cross-cutting to Victor and Rita on the way?
6. The build-up to the confrontation? The atmosphere created by Victor, Lisa and her hostility? moods, suspicions? The varying of audience sympathies?
7. The character of Victor - middle-aged man, married to Rita, selling his farm, the prospect of being on the move and making a new life, summoned by his father, the return after twenty years? His love for Rita? Successes and failures? Anger on his return? The clash with Lisa? The provocation by Judith? His storming from the place and drinking in the town? His decision to confront everyone with the truth? The long story and the flashback? His decision to buy the neighbouring farm? Prospects for future success?
8. The significance of the flashbacks: Victor as a child, the hostility and suspicion of his mother? Victor and his age, relating with his father, the criticisms of his mother, especially as regards going out? The young Lisa and Nico on the farm? Lisa’s protectiveness of Nico? The outing, the truck-drive, the dance - and the humour of the old style country town dance? The drinking? The beer spilt on his coat? The storm? Trying to get Nico home? Nico being sick in Victor's room? Lisa locking him out? Victor's anger? Nico's mad driving of the tractor and the accident? Victor having threatened Lisa with the sack? Victor's mother and the cover-up? The promise to Lisa and Roberto? The mood of the flashback. the interest in the narrative, monochrome photography?
9. Mr. Ross - the ageing farmer, relationship with his son and daughter? His being shocked by the truth?
10. Victor and his telling of the truth, his purging himself of his anger, his building a new life with Rita?
11. Lisa and Roberto - at the farm, Lisa and her devotion to Roberto, Roberto and the infatuation with Judith, their romantic interludes and the kissing? The shooting of the favourite dog? The truth and the break with Judith? Roberto's hostility? Lisa’s anger and hatred? Her admission of the truth? Their leaving? The importance of the Italian background and style? The hostility of the family towards the Italians?
12. Judith and her strong-mindedness, plans? Breaking off with Roberto? Did she really love him? Her comparing herself with Rita? Rita and her hopes, ambiguous relationships with the family? Snobbery towards Lisa and Roberto? Criticism and bitchiness towards Judith? Devotion to Victor? Her pregnancy? Her expressions of prejudice?
13. How credible the situation? The characters and their interaction grouped on the veranda or in the room as on a stage? The contrivance detracting from the impact? The credibility of the dialogue and language?
14. Thews of the land, ownership, pioneering? Australian class distinctions, migrants and prejudice? Relationships, ambition, wealth?