Australia, 1987, 85 minutes, Colour.
Maggie Millar, Sally Cooper, Tony Richards, David Blackman.
Directed by Monique Schwarz.
Pieta is a small-budget Melbourne film, written and directed by Monique Schwarz. It was backed by Film Victoria. It is a portrait of a middle-aged woman, reminiscing about her Catholic upbringing and its strictness, sexual repression - but the need to have rules, to abide by the rules, to have an enduring marriage relationship. This woman is now divorced, her children living overseas, regretting her life as a teacher - and unable to interest her class in Mediaeval and Renaissance art. However, she is concerned about a young ex-student who has become a surrogate mother with a Downs Syndrome child, and rejected by the father. This stirs her and she becomes a mother, even to the violent killing of the father. The soliloquies to the camera are her explanation of herself, a possible defence, though she does not seem to be excusing herself.
The film is well-made, imaginative, reflects on Australian themes - and is well-played by Maggie Miller as Mary and Sally Cooper as the surrogate mother.
1.The impact of this small-budget film? Australian and Melbourne background? Portrait of a woman and her beliefs?
2.The Melbourne locations, exteriors and interiors? The action and realism? The technique of interviews with Mary and their being edited into the action? The special effects?
3.The techniques for editing, special effects, especially for the shooting, the musical score?
4.The framework and the driving, the shooting, its meaning and consequences?
5.The title of the film, the reference to Michelangelo's Pieta and art? The traditions of art and beauty? Art, beauty and religion? The slides, the mother and child, Leonardo's work? The comments on St Francis and his stigmata? And the Australian kids disinterested in such art? Mary's mother and herself? Mary and the young girl? Mary with the Downs Syndrome child? Finally an avenging Pieta?
6.The portrait of Mary, her friends, discussions about teaching and giving it up, the class preparations, the kids' disinterested reaction in her slide program, sending the boy out and his calling her `bitch'? The background of her marriage and divorce, the phone call to New York? Alone, the young man, the sexual relationship? Seeing the television news, the information about the surrogate mother, her visit and understanding? Going to the father and his ousting her? Her anger, the phone call from the girl, her desperation, minding the child, calming its weeping? The mother and the child dead? Mary as a grieving mother? Wandering, waking up at St Kilda, her decision, the drive, her vengeance? Credible?
7.Mary and her explanations, as a child and rules and security, being alone, the good Catholic, sexuality, the father and his not believing her, the mother not supporting her, her relationships when young, courting the boy, confession, the theology of Christ and the church as a symbol of marriage? Her interest in Christian art and teaching it? Her point about the nuns, the model of femininity, the rejection of marriage, celibacy, the girls obsessed by the nuns? The ideal life? Defining their lives idealistically? The struggle between men and women and God? Mary finally not asking forgiveness, stating that she did what had to be done and inviting others to do their job? Death wish or not? Why was her background still affecting her?
8.The young girl, the surrogate motherhood, her decision, the child, Downs Syndrome, the rejection of the father, her anger and her unwillingness to look after the child, aggravated by its weeping? Relying on Mary, the phone calls, the ultimate violence?
9.The father and his disowning the child, the court case, talking to Mary, the glimpse of his sexual relationship with his wife, answering the door, his death?
10.The subplot of the boy, his friendship with Mary, seeking her out, visiting, the meal, discussions, sexual relationship?
11.The background of the ordinary world, television news, school? Mary and her giving up her job, cleaning out her desk, leaving it?
12.The final impact of the film? The feminine perspective? The skill in this small film?