Warners, who used Roadshow Distributors to handle the domestic release, put out a press sheet with this synopsis:

It is 1965 in rural Australia. Danny Embling (whom we first met in “The Year My Voice Broke”) is now in Form 5 at St. Alban’s College, a boys’ boarding school.

Always an outsider, Danny (Noah Taylor) is considered the “school dag” and bears the brunt of the cruel taunts of the other boys. A nervous stutter makes his attempts at communication even more difficult, so he withdraws, reading Jean-Paul Sartre and thinking about life.

At a debating meet to argue the highest form of human achievement with the boy’s sister school, Cirencester Ladies College, Danny finds a soulmate in a sophisticated Ugandan student named Thandiwe Adjewa (Thandie Newton). Danny and Thandiwe are attracted to each other as they recognise kindred spirits.

Both Danny and Thandiwe have made friends at their respective schools who assist with their liaisons. At St. Alban’s, Danny’s friend “Gilby” Fryer (Bartholomew Rose) acts as his confidant and adviser in matters of the heart.  At Cirencester, Thandiwe’s friends Melissa and Janet (Kym Wilson and Naomi Watts) advise and listen while marvelling at Thandiwe’s maturity and audacity. Nicole Kidman plays Nicola Radcliffe, Vice head Prefect of Cirencester.

Through his relationship with Thandiwe, new worlds open up for Danny, enabling him to learn about life and, ultimately, more about himself.

Warner Bros. presents Flirting, a Kennedy Miller Production of a John Duigan film. The film is written and directed by John Duigan and produced by George Miller, Doug Mitchell and Terry Hayes.

For the United States VHS release, Nicole Kidman misleadingly took centre stage on the video slick, with her photo in the foreground and her name at the top, while the actual two lead stars posed in the background.

The front of the slick led with reviewer plugs, though two came from Roger Ebert:

“Two very enthusiastic thumbs up! Wonderful, magical, marvelous!” - Roger Ebert, Siskel & Ebert

“★★★★! One of the year’s best films!” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“…Marvelously acted and directed!” - Gene Shalit, “Today” NBC-TV

The rear cover led with a couple more quotes:

Flirting has genuine charm and an irresistible sensuality.” - Susan Granger/WICC/American Movie Classics.

“Funny, erotic and touching!” - Patrick Stoner, WHVY-TV

After noting “Winner of the Best Film Award, Australian Film Institute", there was a short synopsis:

Critically acclaimed writer/director John Duigan captures all the magic and curiosity of adolescent romance in this inspiring love story starring Nicole Kidman, Noah Taylor and newcomer Thandie Newton.

Taylor returns as Danny Embling, the irrepressible young outsider who first came to our attention in “The Year My Voice Broke.” This time he’s been carted off to St. Albans, a posh all-boys boarding school where he’s having a bit of trouble fitting in. Struggling to find his place in this regimented world, he makes more than a few enemies. But he’s a romantic at heart, and when he spots Thandie Adjewo (Newton), the only black student at the girls boarding school across the lake, he recognizes a kindred spirit and the flirtation begins.

The Alliance Atlantis DVD release kept up the Kidman presence and dug up a new Gene Shalit quote from The Today Show, “A rapturous story of first love”, and on the back cover offered the log line “Breaking the rules was never this fun”:

Two star-crossed misfits risk everything to be together in this sexy and amusing coming-of-age film. Starring Noah Taylor (almost Famous), Thandie Newton (Mission: Impossible 2) and Academy Award® winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours), Flirting is a “brilliant” (The Washington Post) story about first love that’s “miles ahead of the average teenage film” (Variety)!

With his slight stature, obstinate stutter and love for existentialism, Danny (Taylor) doesn’t quite fit in at his rugby-dominated boys’ school. But then he falls for radiant, intellectual Thandiwe (Newton) - an African student ostracized by the icy clique leader (Kidman) of a nearby girls’ school. Despite meddling classmates, imperious teachers and a lake separating their schools, Danny and Thandiwe’s romance blossoms … until a crisis threatens to take Thandiwe away forever ...

(For a detailed synopsis, with spoilers, cast details and sample dialogue, see the bottom of this site’s ‘about the movie’ section)

Production Details

Production company: Kennedy Miller presents a John Duigan film; tail credit copyrights to Kennedy Miller Productions Pty Limited, and the roller ends with “A Kennedy Miller Presentation”.

Budget: n/a - Kennedy Miller never disclosed their budgets. That said, it looks an inexpensive film, though certainly with more of a budget than The Year My Voice Broke (which was probably a million or less) ... though not that much more.

A report on Duigan and the film in the LA Times (here) put the film at less than US$2 million, which allowing for inflation and some reasonable costs (going on location, importing Thandie Newton, getting Nicole Kidman before she headed off to Hollywood, etc) sounded about right. Costs had risen considerably under the 10BA regime and didn’t go down as the tax break scheme wound down. Taylor demanded $100,000 to do The Nostradamus Kid - he said he was tired of autobiographical films - but he didn’t get that sort of payday for Flirting.

Locations: end title reads “filmed on location in Sydney, Bathurst and Braidwood, NSW Australia”. The film returned to Braidwood for the closing pub and rural scenes (featured in the original The Year My Voice Broke). St Stanislaus’ College at Bathurst was the key location for the boarding school scenes and is thanked in the end credits. The school has a wiki here

The end credits also thank the Sydney school Rivendell in Concord West (website here), St Andrews College (Sydney University, website here) and Chatswood High School (website here).

Filmed: April-May 1989

Australian distributor: Warner Bros via Roadshow Distributors/ Village.

Theatrical release: the film opened nationally and relatively wide on 21st March 1991. In Melbourne it opened mainly in Village theatres; in Sydney at a mix of Village, Greater Union and Hoyts theatres

Video release: Warner Home Video.

Rating: PG

35mm  colour

Running time: 98 mins 2709.9 metres (Roadshow Distributors Press Sheet); 99 mins (Murray’s Australian Film, LA Times); 98 mins (Cinema Papers); 100 mins (New York Times).

Atlantic/MGM DVD time: 1’38”58

Box office:

The film did reasonable but not exceptional business domestically, with the Film Victoria report on box office recording $1,655,044, equivalent to $2,614,970 in A$ 2009.

This was a little better than The Year My Voice Broke in 1987, with $1,513,000, equivalent to $3,041,130 in A$ 2009.

In fact, at the time inflation was reasonably strong, and using the RBA calculator, The Year My Voice Broke made the equivalent of $1,931,784 in A$ 1991, and if adjusted this way, did better than Flirting.

This possibly helps explain why Duigan and Kennedy Miller were never strongly motivated to proceed to the proposed third film in the trilogy, especially as it was supposed to be set in Paris during the 1968 troubles, and the streak of political portentousness, always just below the surface with Duigan, might have bubbled to the surface.

The film was probably more liked in the United States than in Australia, and in 2017 it still sat at position 54 in the Screen Australia list of films that made over US$100,000 in the US market.

Goldwyn managed $2,415,396 from the US release, whereas the first in the never completed trilogy, The Year My Voice Broke, made only US$213,901 for Warner Bros (data here).

Box Office Mojo has more data here, and notes that on the opening weekend beginning November 6th 1992, the film did $10,125 in a single theatre, but then widened to 33 theaters and had a respectable run until 22nd April 1993. 



Flirting was involved in one of the more bizarre exercises arising from the 1990 AFI Awards.

The film won Best Feature Film category, but director John Duguid didn’t even score a nomination as Best Director, while Ray Argall won Best Director for Return Home (from a field of Stephen Wallace's Blood Oath, Paul Cox's Golden Braid and Jerzy Domaradzki's Struck by Lightning).

But in turn Return Home didn't pick up a nomination in the Best Feature Film category (instead Flirting, Blood Oath, Struck by Lightning and Nadia Tass and David Parker’s The Big Steal were the films in that category).

Thus the bizarre and surreal spectacle of a Best Film without a Best Director, and a Best Director without a Best Film.

Winner, Best Feature Film (Terry Hayes, Doug Mitchell, George Miller)

Winner, Spectrum Films Award for Best Editing (Robert Gibson) 

Winner, Best Achievement in Production Design (Roger Ford)

Nominated, Samuelson Award for Best Achievement in Cinematography (Geoff Burton) (Jeff Darling won for The Crossing)

Nominated, Best Achievement in Sound (Antony Gray, Ross Linton, Phil Judd) (Ben Osmo, Gethin Creagh and Roger Savage won for Blood Oath)

Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Bartholomew Rose) (Steve Bisley won for The Big Steal)

The film also won the AFI Members Prize for producers Terry Hayes, Doug Mitchell and George Miller.

The film only did a limited tour of international film festivals, but did win the audience award and festival prize for best independent film at the 1992 Boston Film Festival.

The film also did handsome  business at the short-lived Film Critics’ Circle of Australia, picking up Best Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Actor (Noah Taylor)

Vicki Molloy then head of the AFI attempted a response to wide-ranging criticism of the AFI awards (Filmnews, June 1991, here in full on Trove): 

...Other criticisms questioned specific nominations, such as how Flirting could be nominated for Best Film without gaining a Best Director nomination for John Duigan? (A situation that had also occurred in the Oscars with Bruce Beresford and Driving Miss Daisy).

Molloy stresses that two separate panels determine these two categories; the Best Director nomination is arrived at by a panel of directors, the Best Film nominations (last year) by adding up the votes of the nine professional panels. "It's not surprising that there may be a difference in taste, criteria and judgement for these different groups," she says, and refers me to Duigan's own letter in defence of the awards system published in Viewpoint January 1991. 

It nonetheless remained a nonsensical outcome, as it was for Beresford.


Flirting has been released in region 1 on DVD in a barebones edition, which is nonetheless had a reasonable quality, correctly formatted image, with a standard def level of sharpness and good sound.

It has also been released in a number of other territories. Some editions also had the trailer, and most had good sub-titling for the hearing impaired and for other languages (French, Spanish), the sort of essential offering frequently ignored in domestic digital releases.

However, the subtitles in the Alliance Atlantis release had some exceptionally enjoyable howlers, such as transcribing Danny’s talk of the “mating rituals” of rugger into “manly rituals”

Gilby glimpsing Xanadu in Nicole Kidman’s folding legs becomes “it’s a sandu”, the debate’s adjudicating panel becomes the educating panel, Samuel Pepys becomes Samuel Peeps, and the immortal Sir Robert Menzies turns up as Sir Robert Mensys. Half the point of the joke is wedging Aristotle’s name between Menzies and the Duke of Edinburgh.

The titles also miss some of the offensive references, like 'Backa' Bourke asking about the "boong". And the concept of the delights of "liquorice all sorts" escaped the Montreal subtitlers. And then there’s the immortal Australian word “dag”, turned into “scapegoat”. Nor should Danny “poofter” Embling, as announced by 'Slag' at the big fight, be called Danny “Puffbird” Embling. And Gilby suggests Danny kicks 'Backa' Bourke in the "cods" (balls), not in the "cords".  And so on.

Well what would Montreal folk know of Australia? Still, it’s better than nothing, and in a way it's a tribute to the idiosyncratic Oz language Duigan and Kennedy Miller preserved in the film.

Yet despite this, since the days of its VHS release, the US market has been more kind to, and looked more favourably on, the film than the domestic market has done. (The film was also given a laser disc release in the States).

These days it is also available for streaming and download, and that’s more than enough for this site. It might not be a common sight in Australia, but it can be easily found.

It doesn’t really matter if there are extras - besides director Duigan might have some personal reasons for not wanting to talk at length about what went on in the shoot - though it’s always a little sad that the sequel didn't get the sort of support and package that was offered in the DVD release of The Year My Voice Broke.

Perhaps the reason that US reviewers and audiences have liked the film more than Australians have done is the way it contains a number of generic devices which make it fit comfortably into American coming of age stories, with just a whiff of down under eccentricity. There’s the boarding school angle, and there’s the changing room voyeurism, which was relentlessly exploited in publicity in the international marketplace.

Australian reviewers tended to see the film as good but of lesser quality than the original Noah Taylor outing, while acknowledging the very good work of the young cast and the older actors playing teachers of the standard repressive, pipe-smoking,aeroplane-modelling, tut-tutting and clucking kind.

Technical credits are also solid, and for anyone worried about where the film is heading, there’s a typically upbeat ending which panders to the American way of doing things (it’s hard to imagine a film that would have left Thandwe dead in Idi Amin’s Uganda at end of show).

The film was also heavily sold in the US market as a Nicole Kidman vehicle - she figures big on the DVD slick - when in reality she has a secondary role, and the hard work is done by Noah Taylor and Thandie Newton.

There’s nothing wrong with Kidman’s work, even if she’s already a tad too old to fit well into the school environment (as is Felix Nobis as her rugby winger, head prefect wannabe consort type). It’s just that the film is better remembered for Taylor and for Newton, who has since gone on to further more recent glory as a fractious robot in the TV series Westworld. She looked good there, and she looks just as alarmingly precocious and attractive in Flirting.

At the same time, her presence, and the story about her and director Duigan - subject of much industry gossip at the time only acknowledged in the press much later - has led some people to review their opinion of the film, or at least the insights on offer. And it’s true that it’s slightly unnerving in this context to see the voyeuristic stare of the camera observing Newton - unlike the later voyeurism of Westworld.

It also seems fair to say that the film lacks the sheer oomph of the first outing, in terms of emotion and awareness of class and country town structures (the more conventional caning and bullying and nerdish routines of the boarding school don’t match up, and having Danny suddenly develop a nervous stutter doesn't help).

It’s not as good as it might have been, but still engaging to watch, especially for the pleasure of the company of the players. It’s one of the sadnesses that the third film in the trilogy never made it up on to the screen, perhaps because Dugian’s second film didn’t quite work the way that might have been expected. 

Instead, it became part of another tradition, one different from the Voice Broke coming of age storyline. It became a boarding school movie, of the kind seen in The Devil’s Playground, Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Getting of Wisdom.

All were arguably better films, but that’s also one of the joys of film history - to look back and to reflect, and thereby arrive at some kind of composite understanding of Australia, not just in the 1960s, when the film was set, but also in the late 1980s when the film was made …

As the film’s narration track says near its close:

Danny (V/O): “I don’t think fate is a creature, or a lady, like some people say. It’s a tide of events sweeping us along. But I’m not a fatalist, ‘cause I believe you can swim against it. And sometimes, grasp the hands of the clock face and steal a few precious minutes …If you don’t … you’re just cartwheeled along …and before you know it, the magic opportunity’s lost …and for the rest of your life, it lingers on in that part of your mind which dreams the very best dreams, taunting you and tantalizing you with what might have been …”

There are 3 clips from the film at the ASO site here, but this is a film that's easy enough to get hold off, for anyone interested in catching up on second leg of director Duigan's incomplete trilogy.


1. Source:

According to an interview with John Duigan in Cinema Papers, November 1989, Duigan wrote Flirting before he wrote The Year My Voice Broke, and then while writing Voice Broke, had it in the back of his mind that he could adapt Flirting to fit Danny’s character. (See the Cinema Papers’ interview below).

In an interview with Peter Malone at Malone’s essential site, Duigan had a number of things to say about the two films, and the ideas that informed the character of Danny.

For the full interviews, which were conducted in 1994 and 1997, and range over many of Duigan’s films to that point, go here:

...Malone: The same dimensions seem to be present in The Year My Voice Broke and Flirting - what drew you to exploring the character of Danny Embling and in that particular period?

Duigan: I suppose I use the character of Danny Embling to a degree as a sort of partial alter-ego in that I think his behaviour and the evolution of his sensibility are parallel to my own - although I often give him very different experiences. So it's not autobiographical in any strict way. I like the opportunity of being able to follow through characters that I've come to really like - characters that are played with the kind of accessibility and complexity which Noah Taylor has brought to the role. I like the idea of being able to follow through that character's journey perhaps over several more films and maybe in conjunction, sometimes, with some of the other characters that we have got to know.

Starting the series at that point of adolescence seemed right to me because adolescence is always a conjunction of the most massive degrees of change that an individual has to face. We can confront change at any time in our lives, but the freshness that we have at that time, the fact that we haven't been bruised too much or jaundiced by life's traumas, gives a particular piquancy to that particular time of life.

Malone: A country town with its small population was a helpful setting to bring the character alive.

Duigan: Yes, in The Year My Voice Broke and in Flirting there are two miniature societies: one is the isolated country town with its secrets, with its bullies, with its peer group pressures, and the three principal characters are all on the edge symbolically, but they're literally on the edge because their outpost is this little beautiful curved range of hills where Loene's and Noah's characters always liked to stay. In particular, The Year My Voice Broke is dealing with a sense of their pantheistic relationship to nature and to the land. They both have it - in particular, Loene's character has an almost primal connection with the physical environment. As Noah puts it, it's almost like, to her, the rocks and the trees are living things. This is something which I believe in. This is our kinship with the land, which is something so strong in Aboriginal beliefs and in the beliefs of North American Indians.

It is something which is eroded by our immersion into society, so it's something which Danny is fighting to retain as he becomes more and more embedded in the second society that he encounters (in Flirting), which is the society of the boarding school. I think that the whole tapestry of rural life had the ability to put us in touch with nature, with the currents of the wind and the changing of the seas - it's something that's much harder to retain when one is constantly surrounded by concrete.

People have railed against this since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The followers of the notorious Captain Ludd, the Luddites, in England were doing this when they destroyed farm and factory machinery. This was a very strong primal reaction. But I think that they could see that the life of having to go and work in the dark satanic mills of the early factories in England was going to crush a part of their nature. I would like to do a film about the Luddites at some stage.

Malone: You brought in Aboriginal themes explicitly with Jonah, the Bruce Spence character, in The Year My Voice Broke.

Duigan: Yes, Bruce Spence's character, Jonah, was writing Australia's first erotic novel and living in a railway carriage, but I gave him some of the philosophical views that I ascribe to myself, and he was able to play those moments very, very well. His is also a character that I would quite like to see revisited.

Malone: In Flirting, the next step was to genuine relationships and an intensity in first love for Danny Embling's development? You also introduced international racial overtones with the African student played by Thandie Newton.

Duigan: The relationship that developed between Noah's character and Thandie's character was the relationship that he would have liked to have had with Loene's character in The Year My Voice Broke. More than anything else, these two characters are misfits and the fact that they can find in one another mutual recognition from someone they respect is an incredibly strengthening, fortifying thing for both of them. They don't really need to have their peers acknowledging them once they have actually found each other because their very differences are valued by each other, and for anybody to encounter a relationship like that, to suddenly feel that they're not as peculiar, as odd, as separated from everyone as they've been taught to think and as they've been belittled by the pettiness of others - that's what makes the relationship so amazing for both of them.

Malone: You have been successfully subversive with the character of Danny Embling in presenting your alter-ego as an alternative to the standard ocker image of the Australian hero. Here is someone who doesn't go in for sport, who likes to read and who lives in a different kind of world, an imaginative world. It is surprising how Australian audiences responded so well to this unlikely hero - and each film won the Best Film Award from the Australian Film Institute.

Duigan: The peculiar thing about Australian culture is that one of its strongest dimensions is its anti-authoritarian nature and its celebration of the nonconformist, and yet the peer pressures that have occurred, particularly towards masculine stereotyping, have been as strong in this country as, probably, in any other country in the world. It seems a peculiar dichotomy because what the culture has celebrated is somebody without any reverence for authority, but the challenges to authority have become stereotyped in themselves. So we have the larrikin ocker. It's that kind of thumbing the nose at authority which has become institutionalised since last century. It's not a particularly interesting or wide-ranging form of rebellion or a particularly interesting type of outsider. So, yes, Noah's character is definitely presenting something which is a marked departure.

2. Cast:

Noah Taylor continued his successful career, but instead of completing the trilogy of Danny Embling, begun in The Year My Voice Broke, did the 1992 biographical The Nostradamus Kid, which re-enacted writer Bob Ellis’s life (and which was clearly one inspiration for John Duigan. The Nostradamus Kid had been written before Duigan began his trilogy and he had at one point been slated to direct it). Taylor also appeared as David Helgott in the biopic Shine. He has a wiki here

Thandie Newton was discovered by the creative team after a sweep across London, Paris and New York. She was attending the Arts Education School in Herfordshire at the time and a telephone call by a casting agent took her to London to meet director John Duigan.

In a profile of Newton in the Sunday Telegraph, 14th April 1991, it’s noted that Duigan changed the character Thandiwe’s back story to more closely resemble Newton’s real story, including using the same name, lightening the character’s skin colour and giving her an English accent (see this site’s photo gallery for jpgs of the two page story). In it, Newton said this about working with Noah Taylor:

“I think Noah found me slightly aggravating,” she says candidly. “I was 16 and he was 20, with a very dark, intense view of life. It was a completely new experience for me, and I was bouncing around everywhere, wanting to help the grips set up the cameras.

“I was like a puppy snapping around Noah’s ankles, but our working relationship was wonderful. I used to come off the set and and think, ‘Why can’t he be this friendly?’ We didn’t do the love scenes until the end of the film, and by then, they came quite naturally.”

Newton formed a six year relationship with director Duigan (see below) and later worked with him again, including doing the film comedy The Leading Man, set in the theatre, which was written up in Urban Cinefile on 24th July 1997 by Paul Fischer:

...Born in Zambia but raised (due to political unrest) in her father's hometown of Penzance, England, Newton began studying dance and acting at age 11 at the UK's Arts Educational School. Unlike her "Flirting" screen character, Newton was never subject to racial attacks. "When we moved to England, there were very few black people in the town. We were almost a novelty. It was an opportunity for the neighbours to tell others: I met an African girl, how exotic! I always saw being black as something very useful, a mysterious element I could use to enrich my personality. Then I went into the arts, where difference is celebrated. So I've never really experienced racial hassle."

After "Flirting", Newton chose to concentrate on her studies, majoring in social anthropology at Cambridge. "I was grateful for the opportunity to do Flirting, but at the time I didn't consider myself to be an actress. In fact, this notion of being GIVEN something which alters your life so completely, never sat well with me." At university, between exams, Newton maintained a busy film career, appearing in "The Young Americans" (1993), a crime drama starring Harvey Keitel, and Neil Jordan's blockbuster horror outing "Interview With the Vampire" (1994), as a sultry Creole maid who becomes Brad Pitt's first victim. 1995 brought additional exposure when Newton was cast in the Merchant-Ivory production "Jefferson in Paris", playing a slave and supposed mistress of future president Thomas Jefferson (Nick Nolte). (paywall affected, google text for more).

Much later Newton attracted major attention playing a robot gone rogue in the TV series re-make of Westworld, resulting in more profiles. For example, The Guardian published Thandie Newton: ‘I wake up angry - there’s a lot to be angry about’ in September 2016. 

Newton has a wiki here

Nicole Kidman completed her transition to Hollywood after this film - she had already begun the move with Days of Thunder - and she would only return much later to work in Australia. She had previously done an episode of the ACTF Winners series with Duigan, as well as a more major role in the Kennedy Miller mini-series Vietnam (co-written and co-directed by Dugian) and so helped him out on Flirting, though she is noticeably too old for the role (perhaps explaining why Felix Nobis, tall and also looking older, was cast to play her hopeful wannabe boyfriend). Kidman has a detailed wiki here. 

Felix Nobis, who played ocker rugger winger and dumb grazier’s son Jock Blair (the name is possibly an insider joke about onetime SAFC producer Jock Playing Beatie Bow”, “Robbery Under Arms” Blair), went on to pursue acting, but with an academic tinge. Nobis maintained a long term interest in the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, and could at time of writing be found listed at Monash University here.  A quick google will reveal many other aspects of his later career.

Bartholomew Rose, who was AFI nominated for his work in the film as Danny’s intellectual friend, went on to become an illustrator and cartoonist, and he is listed, with a short bio, at Design & Art Australia Online, here.

Naomi Watts: The film is also notable for an early sighting of Naomi Watts as one of Thandiwe’s sidekicks. Watts went on to a feature film career which included a number of Hollywood films, and she has a detailed wiki here

Kym Wilson: The other girl in Thandiwe’s support group was played by Kym Wilson, who went on to make a name in the TV miniseries Brides of Christ and unfortunately had her career as an actress shaded in the tabloids by an affair with Michael Hutchence. She has a wiki here

The cast playing teachers consisted of a number of well-known character actors, including Jeff Truman, Jane Harders, Maggie Blinco, and perhaps most notable Marshall Napier as the cane-wielding, SS-style bane of Danny’s life. Napier has a wiki here, and a listing at NZ Screen here.

In short, this was possibly as good a cast as might have been marshalled at the time. 

3. Release:

The film was completed in 1990, but had to wait a number of months before gaining a domestic release. It performed adequately, but if inflation is taken into account, probably didn’t do quite as well as the first film, though both films won the AFI’s ‘best film’ award in their respective years.

The film was perhaps better appreciated and certainly did respectable arthouse business in the United States, while also picking up limited releases in the UK and some European territories. However it was only in the United States that the film did significant business.

This might help explain why the third part of the planned trilogy, which would have seen Danny in Paris in 1968, was never made.

4. Music and Literary References:

(a) Music:

There is no conventional underscore used in the film. Vaughan Williams’ Wasps overture serves this purpose, running into the end credits and serving as a nostalgic evocation of lost times (Williams’ The Lark Ascending had served this purpose in the first film).

The major piece of original music for the film was written by John Duigan and New Zealand/Australian composer Sarah De Jong, for the stage musical performed by girl and boy students in the film, called Proserpina.

The other piece of performance involves girls and boys and teachers joining together to sing a Lutheran hymn in church, From Greenland’s Icy Mountains (Reginald Heber, 1783-1826), though surprisingly it isn’t mentioned in the music credits (nor does it appear on the CD release of the soundtrack).

Thandiwe makes a point of not singing - looking at Danny instead - at the time of the lyric about delivering land (presumably including Afric’) from error’s chain …

Lyrics as heard in the film:

From Greenland's icy mountains,

From India's coral strand,

Where Afric's sunny fountains

Roll down their golden sand;

From many an ancient river,

From many a palmy plain,

They call us to deliver

Their land from error's chain…

Music for the film was released on CD and cassette, bolstered by some of the music used in The Year My Voice Broke (both Vaughan Williams pieces were included in the release). The release wasn’t successful and is now hard to find in the second hand market. 

The Troggs’ number With a Girl Like You was released in August 1966 (about a year after the opening title’s identifying that the film is set in the year 1965), and the song has a wiki listing here. Joanie Summers Johnny Get Angry was true to period, as were the other pop song references. Summers has a wiki listing here.

For more details of the music and Sarah de Jong, see this site’s pdf of music credits.

(b) Other references:

For details of the assorted references to books in the film, see this site’s wombat gallery, which contains a list of covers - references range through Sartre, Camus and Karl Marx to adventure books, as well as Tarzan movies.

Perhaps the least well known is the book in the cane-wielding ‘Desert Head’s' office, where Danny sights Ernestine Hill’s The Great Australian Loneliness. Hill has a wiki here, though clearly the main interest in Duigan's film is the joke embedded in this travel book's title in relation to Danny's state of mind. (Danny also sights a snail on the teacher’s logs next to the blazing fire in the fireplace, which might remind some of the snails in Bunuel’s Diary of a Chambermaid).

Sonny Liston and Sartre make cameo appearances, courtesy lookalike actors,  while Cassius Clay appears in newspaper clippings (though he had changed his name to Ali in 1964, it was still common to refer to him under his 'slave name' in Australia in 1965, the year in which the film was set). A Beatles' poster can also be spotted on the wall of the girls' school common room.

As well as the film’s wiki listing here, more can be discovered at an old Murdoch University listing here, though by now not all the links remain active.

5. Date:

The film is routinely dated to 1991, the year of its domestic release, as in Murray’s Australian Film and the film’s wiki here, but it was shot in 1990 and completed in that year and carries a copyright notice for 1990 in its tail credits. This site dates films on the basis of year of production or copyright notice, where available.

6. LA Times Story:

David Gritten wrote a piece about the film (available at the LA Times here) which profiled the film and writer-director John Duigan for the film's US release, under the headers:

 Going Through the Years in 'Voice' and 'Flirting':

Movies: Writer-director John Duigan's trilogy tackles the formative years of growing up in a small Australian town.

LONDON — Writer-directors, the true auteurs of the film business, are an endangered species these days. Fewer and fewer wield the power simply to make films straight from their own scripts, with no interference.

And even in the rarefied company of those who do, how many enjoy the artistic freedom to make a trilogy of highly personal movies?

John Duigan's probably the only one.

One of Australia's most respected directors, Duigan, 43, has been working on his trilogy for more than five years. The second of the three films, "Flirting," a charming, comic, touching piece about a teen-age boy, opened in Los Angeles last week distributed by Goldwyn. It won awards from both Australia's film industry and movie critics on its release last year, and was later warmly received in Britain.

The trilogy tackles the formative years of Danny, a bookish, non-conforming boy raised in a small Australian town. In "Flirting," Danny suffers the oppressive atmosphere and rigid discipline of his boys-only boarding school. Across the river is a girls' school run on similar lines; among its students is a Ugandan girl, Thandiwe, living in Australia for a year while her father, an academic African nationalist, lectures. The relationship between Danny and Thandiwe ripens despite attempts by the schools' authorities to break it.

Autobiography? Not so, insists Duigan: "I use Danny's character as a way of expressing the evolution of some of my ideas. But it's only loosely based on my experiences." In fact, Duigan did attend an Australian boarding school like Danny's, and as he tells it, "was able to speak to many painful memories that I had, because I loathed my time there."

One example concerns a scene in which girls from the neighboring school are transported to Danny's school to attend a dance, heavily chaperoned by teachers. Danny has already made hasty plans to partner Thandiwe at the dance, but after a minor infringement of discipline, is forbidden to go.

"It happened," Duigan says with a sigh. "A teacher who will do that is carrying spitefulness to the extreme. He's not only hurting you but also the innocent party, the girl who's been stood up."

The predecessor to "Flirting," the 1987 film "The Year My Voice Broke," also drew on strands of Duigan's life. In it, Danny was about 13 and smitten with Freya, a teen-age girl living in the same sleepy country town in the early '60s. She is adopted; her real mother was a woman of ill-repute who lived alone on the edge of town. It is even hinted that Danny's father may be hers too. After becoming involved with a local delinquent, she decides to quit the town, with its gossip and narrow-minded prejudices, leaving Danny sad but now envisaging a world outside the small one he knows.

"I didn't grow up in a small town like that," Duigan offers. "I was born in England, where I lived until I was 10. Then came a couple of years in Malaysia before my parents moved to Australia. My dad was in the air force, so I was a military brat. After he retired, he went to live in a country town, and I used to get jobs working on farms, so I know about that life."

Duigan, who is serious, with a slightly disheveled appearance, thinks long and hard before answering questions. His sense of humor is dry to the extent that his witty asides take a while to sink in. He currently lives in London, purely because he finds it a stimulating city, and rents a flat near the Thames in the Chelsea district. One of his main preoccupations at present is the degree to which American audiences will embrace "Flirting."

"They won't accept films that don't have Americans in them," he notes. "Very few films do as well as their own. So non-American films need all the help they can get, from reviews and word of mouth. If only that first wave of an audience can be persuaded to see it, that's the main thing. Audiences have a good time with the film, if they go to see it. Almost nobody doesn't respond to the characters. They're charming."

Duigan adds that "The Year My Voice Broke" performed well on the U.S. art-house circuit, but failed to reach a mass audience. He has higher hopes for "Flirting," in part because Goldwyn is expert in handling smaller films that straddle the art-house and mainstream categories.

"Flirting" cost less than $2 million, but oddly has a bona fide Hollywood star as a supporting player--Nicole Kidman, who portrays the head girl at Thandiwe's school. "I'd worked with Nicole before, the first time when she did a children's TV series in Australia with me when she was 16," says Duigan. "I showed her the script, told her it would be the last time she would ever be playing a schoolgirl, and I was delighted when she agreed to do it."

7. Cinema Papers:

Scott Murray wrote an introduction to, and did an interview with, writer-director John Duigan for a story in the November 1989 issue of Cinema Papers, under the header John Duigan Awakening the Dormant:

John Duigan is a deeply personal and individualistic writer-director. His films draw on the emotional and ethical issues of his generation, and, at their best, conjure with the forces that so often like dormant within us. He has rigorously pursued his areas of interest and side-stepped the pseudo-Hollywood concerns of much of the Australian industry. It was no surprise that when Duigan did go to America to make a film, Romero (1989), it should be about something as fundamental as liberation theology.

In some ways, then, it was unexpected that Duigan should have elected to work with Kennedy Miller: a lone independent immersing himself in its intensely collaborative approach to filmmaking. But, as with almost everything connected with that mini-studio, the relationship has been a major success, from the powerful mini-series Vietnam (1987), which Duigan co-wrote and -directed, to the highly acclaimed feature The Year My Voice Broke. It was during the shooting that he spoke with Scott Murray. He begins by describing how he became involved with Kennedy Miller.

Duigan: Kennedy Miller invited me to come in and work on the mini-series Vietnam. I sat around with Chris Noonan, Terry hayes and Francine Finnane and worked out a rough plot line. We then divided it into episodes that we each would write. I went away and wrote mine and, subsequently for reasons of time, wrote some more. I then basically directed the episodes I had written.

Murray: Was there a lot of discussion involved?

Duigan: There was quite a lot of discussion before the actual writing process started. I think the discussion was very interesting and fertile. It was also a good way of Chris Noonan (co-director) and I getting to know each other. We maintained that very close contact throughout the filming. We watched each other’s rushes and tried to make sure that what we were doing was stylistically harmonious. We also talked about how individual actors were going, how the characters were evolving and that sort of thing.

It was a surprisingly peaceful and trouble-free project to work on, given its complexity and the potential for dispute. Terry, Chris and I were fairly united in what we were attempting to achieve. The post-production period also went pretty smoothly.

Murray: Some writers have found difficulty with the collaboration process at Kennedy Miller. Is it a question of personalities or of finding a shared view of a project’s direction?

Duigan: Tensions between writers and producers, or between writers and directors, occur when people don’t agree with what’s been written. The script has to be something that’s in accordance with what the producers and the directors are hoping to achieve. If it isn’t, then the writers go back and do some more work on it. That wasn’t a situation that occurred here.

Murray: Was any casting done during the discussion stage?

Duigan: No, that came after the scripts were completed. We all brought our ideas to the casting. I had strong views on certain characters and others had certain views on some other characters. We did our tests and there was remarkable unanimity of agreement.

I was very keen on using Nicole Kidman as I’d worked with her before (on Winners) and knew she was very good. But she was over in Perth doing Windrider at the time we were casting, so the others agreed to hold off until she could come back and test for us. They also liked her vey much.

Murray: Workshopping with actors is part of the Kennedy Miller process. Had you done it on your previous films?

Duigan: People call it workshopping, but I just call it rehearsals. Coming from a theatre background, as I essentially did, I have always insisted on having a minimum of two-weeks rehearsals. So, that was all familiar territory.

I tend to rehearse more on the text than do a lot of exercises. Only occasionally do I have actors improvise, postulating scenes that don’t exist to see what happens.

Murray: Do you do much re-writing during this period?

Duigan: Almost none. Occasionally I change an odd line that doesn’t sit well, but no changes occurred to the scripts of Vietnam during that period. I don’t use rehearsals as a re-writing time.

Murray: Your next involvement with Kennedy Miller was The Year My Voice Broke.

Duigan: Yes. Before we even shot Vietnam, I mentioned to Doug Mitchell and Terry that I had a script I wanted to do next. They asked me to show it to them, and they liked it. There was the expectation that I would do that next.

Again, that was a script that didn’t undergo any re-writing. The main creative input from Kennedy Miller came during the casting and the post-production. The producers were interested in watching the screen tests and the evolution of the casting decisions.

A great strength of the Kennedy Miller producers is that they’re very good in post-production. Terry and George are both extremely creative at looking at projects in their entirety during that period. They work as the best producers do, which is to keep a certain distance during the actual shoot. This enables them to come in during the latter stages of editing with a good degree of detachment. They can pick up certain weaknesses quicker than you can yourself. That was certainly the case with Vietnam and The Year My Voice Broke. And even though George was doing The Witches of Eastwick in the U.S. at the time of Voice Broke, we sent him over cassettes of the different cuts and he was able to have an input.

Murray: Both Hayes and Miller have said that they view features a little differently from television. There is much more collaboration on the television than on the features.

Dugian: To an extent, they give me a lot of space because I am directing what are essentially my own scripts. But they’ll make quite important suggestions during the preliminary stages.

In the evolution of the Flirting script, Terry had a couple of very important suggestions to make, while George essentially prodded me into pushing it further. They created a climate of continually raising the expectations of the script. And I did quite a lot of additional honing of the script under that stimulus.

Murray: With your early films, did you ever have the feeling of being a lone battler? Did you miss being pushed and challenged as much as you have been at Kennedy Miller?

Duigan: (Long pause). No, I had great support from Richard Mason during the period I worked with him. But I think that some of my projects could have benefited from more work at the script stage. There is the strong awareness at Kennedy Miller of the need to get the scripts as right as possible before you start shooting.

The three producers here are interesting because they all are very different people. Doug Mitchell always says he’s not a film expect, but his view is often very valid, partially because he considers himself to be an average sort of audience member. His view is different to Terry’s, and Terry’s is different to George’s, and so on. And, as we’re all friends, it has a sense of collaboration, not coercion. I respect them individually and I’ll give their points of view a lot of consideration. I won’t always agree with them, and I won’t always follow up what they suggest, but often they open up very fertile lines of thought.

I enjoy the environment and camaraderie here. I have a real affection for the whole institution of Kennedy Miller. I feel it has achieved a body of work which is distinguished by a commitment to quality.

I want to maintain an involvement with them, even if from time to time I go away and do other films. And it’s probably healthy for me to do things elsewhere from time to time. ButI hope that I’ll keep coming back to do other things with them. I think they probably have that expectation, too.

Murray: During The Year My Voice Broke were you looking towards another project with them, or were you thinking of going to America?

Duigan: I did a tele-feature for them (Fragments of War: The Story of Damien Parer) immediately after The Year My Voice Broke. So that was the next thing. I also talked to them about a project set on Norman Lindsay’s property, but they passed on that. I was then offered Romero and decided to do it. So I suspended work on trying to set up the Norman Lindsay film.

While I was working on Romero, I had a number of conversations with Kennedy Miller. They were keen to do the second part of The Year My Voice Broke trilogy, so we agreed to slot it in in the middle of this year.

Murray: At what stage did you begin to conceive of the trilogy?

Duigan: Well, I in fact wrote Flirting before I wrote The Year My Voice Broke. And it was while I wrote Voice Broke, that I had in the back of my mind the idea of adapting Flirting to fit Danny’s character.

Murray: How different was the original character in Flirting to Danny (Noah Taylor) in The Year My Voice Broke?

Duigan: The Flirting character was not defined to the extent that he became. It was an early draft and there were some edges of the character that only became distilled in my mind when I made The Year My Voice Broke. I then went back and rewrote things.

I mean, it would have been premature to really think about a sequel until The Year My Voice Broke had been made and released. If it had been an unmitigated disaster, obviously the rest would never be made. then, once we decided to do Flirting we were committed to a trilogy.

Essentially, the trilogy is about the development of a certain view of the world of a young man of that period, a philosophical and political view that tentatively takes form as he travels through the three films. And that point of view is drawn very largely from his experience as an outsider within institutions: the town in the first one, the boarding school in the second. In the third, this view is thrown into focus when he experiences at first-hand a series of political events which, it is my intention, lead up to the student revolution of Paris in May ’68. This is when his still unformulated political views distil.

This view is also drawn from his individual relationships, in Flirting from his relationship with Thandiwe (Tandy Newton), the daughter of an African nationalist academic who is lecturing in Australia for a year. Through Danny’s contact with her, all sorts of additional worlds open up for him.

Murray: Are there many characters common to The Year My Voice Broke?

Duigan: No, it’s basically just Danny. His parents do appear in one scene and Freya (Loene Carmen) is there in photographs that he keeps. But it is my intention that Freya and Thandiwe re-surface in the third one.

Basically, we want Flirting to be able to operate autonomously of The Year My Voice Broke for the benefit of those people who haven’t seen it. But there are a lot of allusions to that film which people familiar with it will hopefully pick up.

Murray: And is the great Australian erotic novel nearing completion?

Duigan: (Laughs.) We don’t know that. Maybe that will be revealed in the fourth or fifth one.

Murray: The Year My Voice Broke has almost exclusively been praised as a well-made and sensitive rite-of-passage story. Yet the second half of the film in particular strongly attacks the inherent repression of this country which destroys ideas and people from outside the accepted norm. Were you surprised that this aspect was not picked up by the critics?

Duigan: Yes. I don’t feel the film was adequately discussed, particularly in the print media. Certainly it is very strongly about that, just as it is also about a mystical view of the world. That’s a difficult dimension to discuss so people essentially talked about the rite-of-passage aspects. But, to me, the film’s really not about that at all.

Murray: Danny’s ending up in Paris in May ’68 seems to address the need felt by man Australians of that period to leave in search of some sort of creative life force in foreign places.

Duigan: That’s true. But Danny is someone who is never going to really feel particularly home in expressing any of the coded political philosophies of this time. Essentially, he is someone who hasn’t put his ideas together in any logical way. He somehow feels that there are other, more fundamental questions which need to be asked before dealing with the questions usually posed by Marxists and others.

During his gradual immersion in society, Danny becomes increasingly aware that there is something fundamental to him that he experienced in those days when he wasn’t a part of society. He feels that is becoming smothered and lying dormant within him.

I hope to try and distil that sense in its most acute form in the third part, although you sense it’s starting to happen in Flirting. In some respects, it is perhaps an attempt to describe what I feel is beginning to take shape in the world at the moment, where the old political philosophies are beginning to give way to people asking different questions, ones which derive from a feeling that a whole part of human life and the human life force has been lost.

Murray: By “old”, do you include political philosophies like Marxist Leninism?

Duigan: Yes. Thandiwe’s father in Flirting is an important figure in African nationalist movements at that time. He would be part of the of the Pan-African movement that Nkrumah of Ghana sponsored in the early 1960s. Thandiwe probably considers herself a Marxist and Danny becomes aware of Marx for the first time through her, although it’s not a big part of the story.

Murray: The fact that Danny ends up in Paris seems significant in that the first new wave of Marxist criticism has come out of France, such as Bernard-Henri Levy and his oft-quoted “Marxism leads to the Gulag.”

Duigan: Yes. Danny’s become very interested in Sartre, who, along with Muhammed Ali, is a hero figure for him. Sartre was not a particularly influential figure in criticizing Marxism, but he and de Beauvoir did become disenchanted with it at about that time.

There is a whole intellectual climate in France out of which has emerged a fairly comprehensive critique of Marxism. Intuitively it seems right to me that that is where he goes.

Murray: May 1968 has been quite romanticized in the movies. Is your intention to re-evaluate it?

Duigan: I haven’t done my research on it yet, but it seems to me that the majority of activists at that time really had no comprehensive political agenda. They created a climate out of which significant change might have come, but didn’t really have any constructive things to implement. There was a mood of tremendous effervescence based on a real desire for change, but essentially I feel the movement was intellectually shallow. So I don’t have a particularly positive attitude towards it, no.

Murray: Is that because they were looking for political solutions, whereas - and you used the word “mystical” earlier - you think the solutions lay in something more spiritual?

Duigan: Yes. I tend to think May ’68 was a reflection of something which has been steadily distilling during the course of this century: that is, a sense that the spiritual dimension of life has gone. This isn’t a unique point of view by any means. But that burst of activity was probably an expression of something else - that something is missing from our lives, even if we are unable really to define what it is. So it manifest itself in a sense of outrage at the injustices of the Vietnam War, and in other more superficial senses, of the education system in universities and schools, a sense of feeling that workers should have more to say in the management of factories and all that kind of thing. To an extent I think that what was underneath was not addressed. So, yes, I agree.

The remainder of the interview concerns the feature film Romero, Duigan’s first international film, set in El Salvador and financed by the Catholic church, with Father Kieser acting as the film’s producer and Raul Julia playing the assassinated Archbishop Romero.

The third part of the “Danny Embling” trilogy was never made, and Duigan didn’t make another film with Kennedy Miller. He did however direct another film with Thandie Newton, the 1995 The Journey of August King, based on John Ehle's novel about a lonely rural man who decides to help an escaped slave woman. It was not a critical success (see Roger Ebert's review here).

8. The Sunday Age:

Keith Connolly did a profile of John Duigan for the Sunday Age on 17th March 1991, as part of the press build-up for the film’s Melbourne release, under the header John Duigan Flirting with Success:

John Duigan isn’t obsessed with youth. But he likes making films about young people, and not only because two of his works have won Australian Film Institute best-picture awards.

His latest, last year’s winner ‘Flirting’ - Duigan paradoxically wasn’t even nominated in the best-director category - opens next Thursday at Village Centre and suburbs, rated PG.

It is a sequel to the 1987 award-scooper ‘The Year My Voice Broke’, in which Noah Taylor starred as a love-lorn 1960s country-town teenager helplessly watching Loene Carmen fall into the arms of delinquent tearaway Ben Mendelsohn.

The new film has the Noah Taylor character, Danny Embling, as a boarder at an authoritarian boys’ school in 1965, where he encounters a new love - a Ugandan girl played by Thandie Newton.

Duigan, now a still-youthful 42, first made his mark as a director in 1978 with a low-budget feature called ‘Mouth to Mouth’, about four youngsters living on the fringe in inner-suburban Melbourne.

He also cast another group of young people as the protagonists of a quirky anti-nuclear parable, ‘One Night Stand’, in 1985.

All this because John Duigan, one-time student radical and a philosophy MA of Melbourne University, has a high opinion, and understanding, of teenagers.

“It’s widely held that people in their late teens are ‘unformed’, compared with more mature generations and their accumulated wisdom,” he says.

“But this is misplaced. Many people, as they settle into their careers and long-term relationships, become increasingly blinkered, closed or narrow, whereas those at the age of the characters in ‘The Year My Voice Broke’ and even more so in ‘Flirting’, are enormously, enthusiastically, open to all kinds of new ideas and influences.

“On one level, this gives them a kind of sophistication in contrast to a lot of their elders. It’s this openness, and ability to change, that makes theirs such an interesting age group to make films about.”

Duigan is planning at least one further part to the saga of young Danny: “I like the idea of following the characters through a number of films because, among other things, you can develop them in greater detail.”

He acknowledges that Noah Taylor might well be his Jean-Pierre Leaud, the actor the great French director Francois Truffaut first pictured as a misunderstood delinquent in his celebrated autobiographical ‘The 400 Blows’, and subsequently followed through four more films over the next 20 years.

Duigan says that ‘Flirting’ is autobiographical in the sense that it draws upon his own experiences at Geelong College in the 1960s.

Like the film’s setting, the males-only St Alban’s College, it too had a sister-school where senior boys and girls met at joint theatrical productions and dances.

And the discipline he experienced was even more draconian than that depicted in the film. “I remember getting ’six of the best’ twice on successive days … when I was 17,” he recalls.

Other characters from ‘The Year My Voice Broke’ and ‘Flirting’ could be featured in subsequent films. Danny’s first love, Freya, is an obvious one, and Duigan says he already has sketched out the plot of a feature about what happened to her after the tragedy she suffered in the initial film.

Then there’s Danny’s ‘Flirting’ passion, the Ugandan Thandiwe Adjewa, who opens his eyes to many things, as well as romance. She may be involved in the next film, too.

“Of course, it’s very important for each film to operate in its own right, nobody should need to have seen what went before to understand what’s happening,” Duigan adds.

The writer-director’s academic background is evident when he discusses what he tries to achieve in his films: “I’ve always been interested in people perceived by their peers or their society as being ‘different’, and ostracised or persecuted because of it.

“The tensions between individuals seeking to go their own ways, and trying to find themselves in perhaps un-orthodox fashion, is of abiding interest to me.

“It raises some of the most fundamental questions of human existence - political, psychological and philosophical - because this uneasy and imperfect mechanism that we call society involves compromise in formalised, or semi-fixed arrangements that keep some sort of order.”

It could be said that these concerns inform most of Duigan’s films, all but two of which he also wrote.

Born in England in 1949 (his father was an Australian), Duigan came here with his family in 1961. He became interested in film while at university and appeared in starring roles in several of the so-called “Carlton films”, the work of non-commercial Melbourne cineastes made in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In 1974, he directed his first feature, ‘The Firm Man’, an allegorical fantasy on life, the commercial ethic and the alternative society, starring Peter Cummins. then came ‘The Trespassers’ (1976), a romantic triangle with a “protest” background, prior to ‘Mouth to Mouth’.

There was the 1979 mis-step of ‘Dimboola’ (from a script by the celebrated stage satire’s author, Jack Hibberd) before Duigan moved to Sydney and one of his best films, the nostalgically fraught ‘Winter of Our Dreams’ (1981), starring Judy Davis and Bryan Brown.

Then came the 1982 ‘Casablanca’ update, ‘Far East’, set in the Manila of the Marcos regime. Bryan Brown, Helen Morse and John Bell were the three little people whose affairs did amount of a hill of rice in that crazy world.

‘One Night Stand’ followed - under the auspices of Hoyts and Michael Edgely - but this fantasy of the night before nuclear oblivion was perhaps too irreverent for such a horrifying subject.

Duigan worked in television, made ‘The Year My Voice Broke’ and ‘Flirting’ and, in between, directed his first film overseas - the compelling biopic ‘Romero’, starring Raul Julia as the Salvadoran archbishop murdered by a right-wing death squad.

And what now? His creative fires still burning bright, Duigan has a number of projects mapped out, but it remains to be seen how many of them will be made.

“It’s always difficult to get money for subjects that aren’t immediately perceived as being mainstream, no matter how many films you make that do well enough to pay for themselves and earn money for people,” he says.

“Distributors have trouble with what they regard as ‘art films’. If a project appears to them to fall into one of the mainstream forms, they can immediately identify the possibilities, but when you come up with something they can’t readily pigeonhole or classify, it becomes questionable in their minds.

“Much the same applies in the US. There, you need to be able to supplement your screenplay with some sort of a package that appears to offer commercial possibilities, such as a bankable star.

“I make character-based films that lack spectacle and special-effects opportunities and don’t belong to recognised, easily marketed categories, like the thriller or comedy. So I must expect that there will always be a percentage of my projects that never get made.

“In today’s Australia, there’s much less private money around for film financing - due to the economic recession and the end of tax assistance.

“So now the Film Finance Corporation (the principal film-finance organisation investing Commonwealth funds) has become a much bigger arbiter of what films are made here.

“Recently, I put up a project that I thought was a good one for them, a film set in the world of Norman Lindsay. It’s very much an Australian subject, but has, I believe, quite a lot of potential in the European market. Yet it has been knocked back by the FFC, so I’ll be moving on to a couple of other projects set overseas.”

(The FFC, incidentally, paid Duigan a backhanded compliment in its most recent list of endorsed projects, several of which sound like variants on ‘The Year My Voice Broke’.)

His next film, therefore, will be American-financed - an adaptation of the Jean Rhys novel ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, set in the author’s birthplace of Dominica, in the Caribbean.

It’s a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’, explaining how Rochester’s wife came to be locked up as a supposed raving lunatic. The planned film will be, he assured me a mite unnecessarily, “quite different to anything I’ve done before”.

This, Duigan hopes, will be followed by a drama set in Marseilles. He is working on the sixth draft (sixth, please note - would that more of Duigan’s colleagues could be as diligent!) of a script about the interaction of people from the first and third worlds. “Three very strong characters rejecting their own cultures,” is his summary.

He’s hoping for a co-production, but expects that, most probably, the money will come from the US.

In between, one most fervently hopes, there’ll be film-making in Australia and the ongoing portrait of that engaging young dog, Danny Embling.

9. The Thandie (also at the time Tandy) Newton matter:

It took many years for what had been common industry gossip to emerge in the press when Newton spoke about her relationship with writer-director John Duigan, arising from their time working together on the film.

Newton had several bad experiences as a young actor making her way in the industry and she came to regard the relationship with Duigan as one of them. She spoke to InStyle in 2011, and the usual suspects then picked up and recycled the story, including Vulture:

...This wasn't the only exploitative relationship that Newton had in show business as a teenager. When Newton was 16 years old, she began a six-year relationship with the director John Duigan while on the set of his film Flirting. Duigan was 39 years old at the time. "I was a very shy, very sweet girl. I wasn't in control of the situation. Would I have liked things to be different? Sure," she said to InStyle in a 2011 interview. "But I can now value myself more for the way I got through it. I don't see myself as a victim." But she does think of that as an inappropriate, coercive relationship: "In retrospect, although it was legal because I was 16, I was coerced."

Inevitably the Daily Mail picked the story up: 

Thandie Newton has revealed that she has come to terms with a traumatic relationship with a film director 23 years her senior who she claims took advantage of her innocence as a teenager.

She spoke about her six-year affair with director John Duigan which she began when she was 16 after travelling to Australia to audition for his film Flirting, which starred Nicole Kidman.

The Bafta-winning actress has said the relationship left her feeling ‘self-destructive’ and said she has only spoken about it ‘so teenagers can see they can resist and gain self-awareness’.

Speaking to InStyle magazine, Miss Newton, 38, star of Mission: Impossible II, The Pursuit of Happyness and Rock ‘n Rolla, claims Duigan took advantage of her when she was vulnerable.

She said: ‘I was a very shy, very sweet girl. I wasn’t in control of the situation. Would I have liked things to be different? Sure. 

'But I can now value myself more for the way I got through it. I don’t see myself as a victim.’ 

She added: ‘Part of me feels grateful I can accept the difficulties that came with that situation and be a more compassionate person myself.’

Miss Newton, an ambassador for skincare brand Olay, is happily married to director Ol Parker, with whom she has two daughters, Ripley, 11 and Nico, seven.

She said she had therapy after the affair.

She also said she never told her parents about at the time.

Asked why she had not reported it to police, she said: ‘I am my own supreme court. I judge that one. 

'And in a strict legal way there might not be a case.’

Previously she has said: ‘In retrospect, although it was legal because I was 16, I was coerced.’

Duigan, now 61, lives in America.

He is believed not to have married. 

His spokesman could not be contacted last night.

There was an ironic echo of the affair when John Duigan talked to Eddie Cockrell in The Australian, published 14th April 2012 under the header Director John Duigan talks about sexual politics with aplomb (paywall affected, Google for full text).

Duigan was pitching his film Careless Love, which:...follows the challenges and complicated relationships of Vietnamese-Australian University of Sydney student Linh (poised newcomer Nammi Le), who juggles her social anthropology studies with night work as an escort taken on to help her out-of-town parents stave off foreclosure. Even as she vows to keep "everything separate", societal pressures and a chance encounter jeopardise a budding relationship and the respect of her family.

The interview turned to Duigan's approach to matters sexual in his films:

...The film tells a story that neatly encapsulates another of Duigan's ongoing concerns. "I'm particularly interested in the way that attitudes towards sex and sexuality have changed, a lot," he says, sounding more and more like the avuncular university lecturer he plays in one of the film's smaller parts. "They were already changing at the time of Winter of Our Dreams, but perhaps more fundamentally now in the mainstream of society. When men and women go out at night, it's no surprise to them if they end up in bed and they don't think any less of themselves if they do."

"This is in marked contrast, say, to the world of the 30s or the 50s," he points out. "And I think this has changed, to an extent, the way people might consider doing some work in the sex industry for a period of time, whether as a pole dancer or a topless waitress or an escort. So I think one finds a lot more university students all over the world, and this has been well-documented, choosing to work like this."

He readily acknowledges these issues have informed most of his films. "As soon as you're dealing with interactions between people, a part of the interactions between people who are involved in relationships involves a sexual dimension. That's an abiding area in most of the films. Sexuality creates a great deal of the tensions that come and go in relationships so that's fertile material for drama as much as anything else and also I think gives opportunities for in-depth analysis of people and the exploration of joy as well as its reverse."

Yet there's nary a whiff of exploitation. "There is an affectionate sexuality visited from time to time in my films, particularly ones like The Year My Voice Broke and Flirting and even Careless Love, which has deliberately, you know, quite a lot of humour in it. So while it's to an extent quite dark, there's a lot of light and shade. I mean, she is not a victim in it. She is somebody who remains sometimes precariously and sometimes through her own ingenuity, in control enough to survive it."

Newton might be likely to disagree with this assessment.

10. Detailed synopsis with spoilers and character details:


Narrator (Noah Taylor as Danny Embling): “I remember the smells most, the stale lockers with fruit cakes rubbing in to the wood, crusty shoe polish, damp towels, Quink ink for fountain pens, disinfectant on the floors of the shower block, fresh chalk, mouldy oranges blue with mildew, and on a rainy day, the deep, rank, wild smell of discarded football boots.”

(flash white intercuts of a caning, with sound effects)

“And I remember pain, but only vaguely.”

(the sounds of the caning continue, as we come across boys lined up outside the head teacher’s office waiting their turn)

“I had a thick eye by then. They'd sent me to boarding school so I, I wouldn't become a delinquent …”

Barry ‘Backa’ Bourke (Josh Picker, turning to Danny and mocking his stutter): “Don't w w w  wet yourself Embling.”

Danny: “For some reason … (head teacher’s voice off: "Next!")  …this caused the letters 'h' as in 'h h heaven' and 'w' as in…”

(Danny’s friend Gilbert ‘Gilby’ Fryer - Bartholomew Rose - emerges from the head teachers’s office and murmurs “Psychopath" to Danny as he passes) “… and 'w' as in 'w w women' to sometimes be unsayable …”

Danny then goes into the head teachers’s office - Marshall Napier playing Mr Rupert Elliott.

The opening voice over ends, and a caning scene follows. Danny contemplates a book, The Great Australian Loneliness, and a snail on the teacher’s fireside woodpile and later the boys in the dorm hold Danny down and take a photo of the stripes on his bum.

Danny (V/O): “One thing about boarding school… twenty four hours a day you’re surrounded …either you abandoned yourself and became a herd animal or you dug a cave deep into your head …and escaped inside, peering through your eye sockets …At the source of major solace, an inspiration …Now it’s just a seat of learning …the Cirencester Ladies’ College (shot of the college across the lake at night)… The two schools stared across the lake at each other like brooding volcanoes …” (the lake is superimposed over Danny’s head) … When I was asleep, I used to leave my body and drift the cold currents to the Cirencester grounds where I hovered like a dark angel …(aerial of the college as we hear Vaughan Williams’ The Wasps overture).

Cut to a car dropping off Thandiwe Adjewa (Thandie Newton) and in the dorm Janet Odgers (Naomi Watts) reading Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence, as all the girls contemplate Thandiwe asleep in bed, and one of the girls whispering “Anyone got a banana”, thereby waking Thandiwe with their sniggering laughs…

At the rugger:

A game of rugger buggers with the school cheering the lads on.

Head prefect Nicola Radcliffe (Nicole Kidman) calls out to Jock Blair (Felix Nobis) and he pauses from the rugger to arrange a meeting.

Danny and 'Gilby' are watching, as Thandiwe, Janet and Melissa Miles (Kym Wilson) arrive near them, also to watch.

'Gilby': “Bandits at seven o’clock.”

Janet: “How about those two?”

Melissa (with a sneer): “Bit young.”

Janet: “They’re our age!”

Melissa: “Mm, like I said, a bit young… I go for the mature male.”

(They move closer, to stand alongside Danny and 'Gilby', as a cry goes out for another stretcher)

Janet (in direction of the boys): “Good match.”

Danny: “Yeah! Three badly injured so far.”

Melissa: “You don’t sound very patriotic.”

Danny: “No, I’m not.”

Janet: “Aren’t you interested in football?”

Danny: “Only from an anthropological viewpoint.”

Melissa: “What are you talking about?”

Danny: “It’s a form of mating ritual.”

Melissa: “What?!”

Danny (knowing): “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

Melissa: “You’re deranged.”

Janet: “Incredibly rude, did you know that?”

Danny: “Yeah, well that’s why I haven’t got any friends.”

Melissa: “I’m not surprised.”

'Gilby': “I take pity on him.”

Melissa: "Well, I’d say it’s wasted. Come on.”

The three girls move off to get closer to the footy, but an intrigued Thandiwe looks back as an exasperated 'Gilby' says “Brilliant.”


After girls and boys schools sing together a Lutheran hymn and shots of the girls playing hockey, ABC newsreader James Dibble can be heard as shots of the war in Vietnam play in black and white on the telly:

Dibble: "United States marines began landing yesterday north of Danang to take up security duties around the large jet airfield there …They are the first US ground combat troops to be committed ..".

As Thandiwe watches, girls in the background put on a loud pop song, Joanie Sommers performing Johnny Get Angry …

Thandiwe is irritated and gets up to turn down the volume, as an angry girl responds “Do you mind?”

Thandiwe: “There are other things going on in the world besides skinny rock ’n’ roll singers jumping around.”

Girl: “Yes, of course, and little Miss Sophistication can tell us all about it.”

Thandiwe: “You never know, it might actually concern you.”

Girl: “ Well, I doubt if it will concern you. They’re certainly not going to mention Uganda.”

Girl 1: “I’ve never heard it mentioned ever. They’re not even in the Olympic Games, are they? Probably not eligible.”

Girl: “They would be for the zoo Olympics.”

As they snigger a stewing Thandiwe gets up and bumps the record player, making a scratching sound, to a cry of “you bitch”.

Thandiwe: “Sorry. Slipped on a banana.”

The debate:

The Cirencester ladies arrive for the debate and as they sit, cross their legs in balletic fashion.

'Gilby': “Do you see what I see?”

Danny: “Australia’s answer to Ursula Andress”

(we see Nicola Radcliffe crossing her legs)

'Gilby': “She folds her legs. In doing so, I glimpse Xanadu …”

The Reverend Consti Nicholson (John Dicks) introduces the debate topic: “…That this house agrees with Bertrand Russell that intellectual pursuits are the highest form of human endeavour. And, it’ll be ladies first. Speaking for the affirmative, Miss Nicola Radcliffe”

As Danny gets a note mocking his stutter “g-g-g good luck”, Nicola speaks:

Nicola: Professor Barber, Reverend Nicholson, members of the adjudicating panel, ladies … and gentlemen …('Slag' Green - Kiri Paramore - gives a wolf whistle, producing laughs, and Nicola replies with a sneer) … and others! … The central thrust of our argument will be that the pleasures of the intellect are of a higher order altogether, as opposed to the other simple pleasures of life. And to this end we will be citing evidence from such illustrious sources as William Shakespeare, Emmanuel Kant, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Bishop Barkley, Samuel Pepys, Sir Robert Menzies, Aristotle and the Duke of Edinburgh. Firstly, to begin with William Shakespeare …” ('Slag' Green yawning provides a segue to Danny...)

Danny: “I’d like to suggest that …rugby football …is the h highest form of ('Slag' mock moans, laughs follow) … highest form of … h human endeavour …How can one go past the fluid inspiration of Jock Blair sprinting down the wing for a brilliant try ('Backa' Bourke whispers “Jock”) … how can one not be moved to tears by the naked courage of a smaller player hurling himself at a much larger opponent, bouncing off but picking himself up again and again in a frenzy of guts and determination …Rugby football embodies all the noblest virtues enshrined in a school like ours …Teamwork, bravery, pride, school spirit, creativity, intelligence, love of one’s fellow man …Surely the virtues which distinguish human beings from brute … animals (a single clapping is followed by more general scattered applause).

Rev Nicholson: “The final speaker for the affirmative side is Miss Thandiwe Adjewa …”

Thandiwe: “Having listened carefully to the speakers of both sides, and wishing to be totally impartial, I fear the position for which my team is arguing is untenable, but not for the tedious reasons given by our opponents, the last speaker excepted …My colleagues have quoted many ancient poets and philosophers to support our case that intellectual pursuits are the highest form of human endeavour. But most contemporary artists seem more interested in bodily functions (giggling and teachers looking agitated). For example, I don’t want you toast my bread, I don’t want you make my bed ('Slag': “Oh hoh”) I don’t want your money too, I just wanna make love to you …” (boys’ side of the room erupts in laughter). Tutti frutti oh rutti, tutti frutti oh rutti, tutti frutti oh rutti, a wop bop a looma a lop bam boom (more laughter) ...If these philosopher poets are any guide, the so-called animal side of human beings leaves the intellectual side for dead. Is this just a recent development? Or are we only now becoming mature enough to reveal our … dirty washing? (wild applause from the boys’ side).

Later over tea, Mrs Archer (Fiona Press) berates Thandiwe

Miss Anderson: “You were not only totally disloyal to the school, by deliberately throwing away the debate, but you reduced the occasion to a gutter level. I can’t imagine that you were encouraged to get away with that sort of thing at school in England, but I can certainly guarantee that you won’t be given the opportunity to repeat such behaviour here.”

Janet: “Mrs Archer, she didn’t mean to be offensive.”

Mrs Archer: “She made a mockery of the whole debate. If you believe rock ’n’ roll songs are equal to poetry, then I wonder what they teach you over there at all. At any rate, I shall be speaking to the head mistress in the morning.” (She strides off)

Melissa: “She’s really wetting her pants.”

Janet (looking off): “Uh oh …”

(Danny and 'Gilby' sidle up)

Danny: “Saw you getting busted. Just wanted to congratulate you, it was terrific.”

Thandiwe: “I loved your rugby speech. Are you going to the Boarders’ dance?”

Danny: "Oh, I’m not sure, I don’t think so…”

Thandiwe: “Aren’t fifth formers allowed?”

Danny: “Yeah, but … not many go …”

Melissa: “I’m not, they always play terrible music anyway…”

Janet: “Frightful.”

'Gilby' (eyeing off Janet): “Yes, I prefer jazz to rock.”

Janet’s ‘oh’ is interrupted by Mrs Archer’s “the bus is here, girls! Hurry up please”, as 'Backa' Bourke stuffs food and bikkies into his pockets…

As she goes, Thandiwe suggests she might see Danny at the dance, and 'Gilby' says “super.”

The night of the dance:

Later, to jokes, Danny follows 'Backa' Bourke out of class to get ready to go to the dance. 'Backa' mocks him.

'Backa' Bourke: “Who’ve you got lined up Embling? Didn’t think you’d ever manage to finish a a  a asking someone out …”

Danny (V/O): "People wonder how Hitler managed to get so many followers. It’s never surprised me." 

Cut to Thandiwe and a blonde girl sensuously and competitively sliding on stockings, putting on lipstick etc. as we see Thandiwe is reading a book about Karl Marx.

As she’s getting on the bus:

Nicola: “You’re certainly getting around.”

Thandiwe: “Just trying to lead a balanced life.”

Meanwhile, the vicious Mr Elliott is checking out the boys and worrying about Backa’s hamstring for the footy game the next day. He reaches Danny:

Mr Elliott: “Did I not tell you to get a haircut?”

Danny: “I did, sir.”

Mr Elliott (feeling a strand at the neck): “You’re not going to go looking like this, are you?”

Danny: “Yes, sir.”

Mr Elliott: “I beg your pardon?”

Danny (clearing his throat): “I could put water on it, sir.”

Mr Elliott: “No, you’re not going at all. You didn’t get a haircut, did you?”

Danny: “Yes, sir.”

Mr Elliott: “Are you contradicting me?”

Danny: “No sir, I just tell the truth, sir.”

Mr Elliott: “Okay, the rest of you can go …”

Danny: “What about the girl I asked out, Sir?”

Mr Elliott: “Well you should have thought of that before. Now you report to the prefect’s room, get your hair tidied up and then, you can go back to prep.”

Danny: “But, sir …”

Mr Elliott: “You want a thrashing as well?”

Danny (resigned): “No sir …”

Danny imagines Mr Elliott leaving the room dressed in SS uniform and gives him a 'Sieg Heil' salute …

Later the boys cluster to watch the girls arrive and get off the bus … until Mr Morris Cutts (Jeff Truman) tells them to get back to their desks and the boys complain about a fair crack of the whip, with Cutts saying the fifth formers will get their crack next year.

Boy: “That’s next year though Sir.”.

'Slag' Green: “It’ll shrivel up and die.” (laughter)

Cutts: “What was that, Green?”

'Slag' Green: “I said we’ll er die of starvation, sir.”

Danny and 'Gilby' take a place at the window to watch the arriving girls.

Jock gets a Troggs' song put on the record player to greet the arriving girls, as the Scottish-accented teacher Miss Guinevere Macready (Maggie Blinco) reminds her girls that they’re all young ladies. Thandiwe realises Danny hasn’t turned up …and she’s left alone. 'Backa' Bourke notices.

'Backa': “What’s she like? The boong”

Blonde girl: “Really stuck up. Reckons she knows everything.”

'Backa': “Who’s she supposed to be here with?”

Blonde girl: “Some kid called Danny somebody.”

'Backa': “Danny Embling?”

Blonde girl: “That’s right.”

'Backa': “Huh, Bird Embling. She won’t be doing much dancing …(then off) how’s the old man …” (Segue to Jock and Nicola)

Jock: “It’ll be a great match next week.”

Nicola: “Don’t you ever think about anything else besides football?”

Jock: “I thought you liked it.”

Nicola: “No. Not really.”

(Later Thandiwe sneaks out and heads to the fifth form window, and gesturing for silence, points past the model-aeroplane German Nazi bomber building teacher Cutts to Danny).

Boy (whispering): “There’s an Abo at the window.”

Danny excuses himself to go to the toilet, and meets Thandiwe in the grounds as the boys watch through the window and whistle like birds.

Thandiwe: “Hello.”

Danny: “Good evening.”

Cutts interrupts the whistling and peers out the window, but Thandiwe and Danny have ducked behind bushes. Cutts, model plane in hand, hears vomiting sounds.

Danny emerges to explain he’s been sick. Cutts tells him to pop over and see matron.

Forlorn train whistle as Thandiwe suggests they go to his dormitory, somewhere they can talk.

They hustle in as Danny works out Elliott will be in his study, Third Formers should be in bed and Fourth Formers will come through in half an hour.

Thandiwe: “Why were they making bird noises at you?”

Danny: “Oh it’s an Australian form of admiration… cigarette?”

Thandiwe: “No, thanks …”

Danny: “So where are you from?”

Thandiwe: “My father is Ugandan. My mother was from Kenya …she was half English.”

(as she sits beside Danny on his bed)

Danny: “How come you’re here?”

Thandiwe: “Dad’s lecturing at the University in Canberra for a year …(she notices Danny’s reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s Intimacy, the brilliant study of the corruption of love) … I met Sartre…"

Danny: “Really? Where?”

Thandiwe: “Paris.”

(She flicks through the book and discovers a photo of Freya - Loene Carmen - the heroine of The Year My Voice Broke). "Who’s this?!”

Danny (now smoking): “Uh …a friend from home ...”

Thandiwe: “Where’s that?”

Danny: “Uh …out in the boondocks."

Thandiwe: “These schools are like prisons, aren’t they?”

Danny: “Yeah. Run by former Gestapo operatives… what did you say to Sartre?”

Thandiwe: “I suggested marriage was a doomed institution.”

Danny: “What did he say?”

Thandiwe: “He agreed most people marry to please their parents… or society ...”

Danny: “Not keen on marriage yourself?”

Thandiwe: “I see so many terrible ones …people just stop communicating my father and stepmother ‘re brilliant communicators. They hardly ever talk to each other these days …except in public. Anyway, I doubt whether I’ll find anyone complex enough to keep me interested …I lose interest in people …I imagine they’re far more fascinating than they are …so, I’m always disappointed ...”

Danny: “H h hard life …”

Thandiwe: “Hmmm.”

(as they eye each other off and Thandiwe asks about the bathroom)

Thandiwe: “What would happen if someone saw us?”

Danny: “First they’d extract our fingernails, sexual organs next …”

Thandiwe: “You sound like you’d like to watch.”

Danny: “I’ll stand guard.” 

Thandiwe goes into the boys' toilet …

Danny (as he peeps in at Thandiwe’s shoes and we hear the sounds of peeing) (V/O): “I would have asked Jean-Paul about anguish …it seemed like a pretty romantic concept at the time …"

Inevitably the fourth form arrive, and Danny and Thandiwe are trapped inside the toilet as the boys shower …”we’re buggered completely … 'Desert Head’s' (Elliott) out there.”

As they arrive, the boys are singing Elvis Presley’s Little Egypt and doing the hoochi koochi real slow.

“This is romantic,” jokes Thandiwe, peering out under the toilet door at the naked bodies of the showering boys.

Jests fly about princess Nicola’s sexy legs and knockers, though portly Colin Proudfoot (Greg Palmer) is told he wouldn’t know what knockers were. “He’s got a good set himself,” jokes one boy to general laughter.

Thandiwe: “Some of those boys are so charming.”

A boy knocks on the toilet door, asking if the occupiers are constipated or something.

They toss water over the door, and another gets a mouthful to spurt, then looks under the door and splutters to see Thandiwe.

They sneak past 'Desert Head' as he’s reprimanding 'Slag' Green for sliding around on the dorm floor, warning of splinters.

The pair emerge into the grounds.

Thandiwe: “That was great.”

Danny: “Yeah, good fun.”

Thandiwe: “I suppose I’d better get back to the dance in case they notice I’ve gone…God knows what they think I was up to …”

She asks when they’ll see each other again and Danny says soon, hopefully.

Thandiwe: “I’d like that … for a kid, you’ve got some class.”

Danny: “Gosh …”

Miss Macready emerges looking for her, and Thandiwe gives Danny a peck and says she expects a letter, as Miss Macready says she’s put in jeopardy the whole future of dances …she’ll spend the rest of the evening in the bus, and she’s told the prefects they’ll be leaving a half an hour earlier because of Thandiwe …

Later, in Danny’s dorm:

'Gilby': “What did she taste like?”

Danny: “A girl.”

'Gilby': “Jesus …so you didn’t actually get any further.”

Danny: “It was only a first encounter, Gil.”

'Gilby': “But she suggested you go back to the dormitory. Could well have been expecting you to make a move.”

Danny: “She’s a bit up herself.”

'Gilby': “So what? No one’s particularly obsessed with Ursula Andress’s personality. Look, I know body language and hers says, ‘Give me.’ They can be pretty, you know, desperate, these black women …look at National Geographic.”

'Slag' and another boy arrive.

'Slag': “Here he is.”

Boy: “How did ya go Danny?”

'Slag' (sliding on the dorm floor): “She’s not bad.”

Boy: “Liquorice all sort.”

'Slag': “Is she the one you invited?”

Danny: “Yeah.”

'Slag': “Good one!”

Another boy, arriving: “Do you know what? Bloody Embling brought his woman over and had a shower with her.”

'Slag': “Yeah, dinkum?”

Second boy: “She was nude! Starkers. Half of fourth form saw her!”

'Gilby' (clutching pipe in teeth): “What??!!”

Later in Thandiwe's dorm:

Cut to the girls discussing the events:

Janet: “What was he like? Shy?”

Melissa: “Or retarded?”

Thandiwe: “We just talked.”

Melissa: “Pretty daft of him, taking you to his dormitory.”

Thandiwe: “I suggested it …” 

Janet: “God, did you sit on his bed?”

Thandiwe: “Yeah.”

Janet: “And?”

Girl trying to sleep in bed: “Will you three shut up?”

Janet, Melissa: “Get stuffed!”

Cut to the headmistress Miss Syliva Anderson (Jane Harders) giving Thandiwe a serious dressing down …

This results in Thandiwe having to do what Nicola tells her, picking up playground rubbish, “and if I find even an icy-pole stick, you can do them again next weekend.”

Then Nicola’s distracted by girls’ chattering about a very good looking tradesman they can see through the window …Fiona Spry (Francesca Raft) jokes she’s seen Nicola looking at him.

Nicola: “Don’t judge people by your sordid standards Fiona” (as she drinks a cup of tea).

Africa and a letter:

Danny is flicking through old adventure books.

Danny (V/O): When I started thinking about Africa, I realised the only images I knew were from old annuals …Tarzan comics and Hollywood movies. Cannibals with bones through their noses … lions tearing the throats out of antelopes …and a lot of … wondrous, moving words like Limpopo …Zambezi …Mombassa …Tanganyika …" (cue Tarzan yell and movie footage).

The yelling transmutes into 'Slag' at the school mail board, yelling and showing off a letter Danny’s got from his girlfriend.

Boy: "Lubra lips?"

Boy 1: "Onya, Bird, don’t peck her eyes out …"

(more bird whistling as Danny tries to get the letter)

'Backa' suggests 'Cheddar’ Fedderson (Joshua Marshall) open it, and when he says “oh fair go”, 'Backa' snatches it and says “let’s see what she’s got to say.”

Danny: “Don’t be an idiot Bourke.”

'Backa': “Dear Danny …(cries of “aahh”) … signing your letter with a ‘yours’ was a bit demure, wasn’t it? I thought after our episode in the showers (Proudfoot offers Danny a consoling fag) I deserved something a little warmer …I’m told your nickname is …Bird (much bird whistling and chortling) …well, I like long noses …it means you’re well endowed …with brains of course …”

Danny (V/O): “People like to have someone to look down on …(it) makes them feel better about themselves …No one realises what a great community service I was performing by being the school dag. I didn’t care. I’d met this girl …

'Gilby' heads off to 'Desert Head' to report the letter matter, it’s something he thought that wasn’t fair …

'Backa' is called out from class to go see Mr Elliott in his office. The sound of 'Backa' getting the cane can be heard in the hallway and Cutts’ class …

'Backa' returns and makes a slit throat gesture to Danny, as Cutts embarks on a new model aeroplane …


Cut to Jock Blair in tennis gear chatting with Fiona about the letter.

Jock: “‘Yours faithfully was a little bit demure, didn’t he think?’ It was so funny. Everyone was rolling around laughing … and then she said ‘well, big noses do mean you’re well endowed.’”

Fiona: "Oh that’s typical. She’s so tasteless.”

Jock: “Is she really?”

Nicola: “I don’t think it’s very funny reading other people’s letters.” (awkward silence follows).

Later, as Adjewa and Melissa help Janet pen a letter reply to Gilby, cruel Fiona arrives to tell the dorm its lights out.

Fiona: “By the way, I’m glad to know your boyfriend’s well endowed Adjewa …”(the other girls burst out laughing)

Thandiwe: “Pardon?”

Fiona: “Your St Alban’s friend.” (She leaves, triumphant).

A phone call from her father:

Later Thandiwe is looking through a microscope at wiggling Danish blue in Miss Macready’s science class when she’s called away for a phone call from her father. Melissa asks to go to the toilet and Miss Macready allows her to go to the bathroom.

Melissa picks up the phone and gets Danny pretending to be Milton Adjewa, asking to speak to his daughter.

Melissa explains Thandiwe doesn’t want to speak to him anymore because he’s been showing her letters to everyone, and Danny protests the letter was stolen. Melissa calls him a pill and says he should have looked after it, then hangs up.

Cut to Mrs Archer explaining this year’s musical to the students, girls and boys joined together.

It’s called Proserpina: “… the dramatic story of the rape of Persephone, as she was called by the Greeks, a beautiful goddess who was kidnapped by Pluto, the God of the Underworld. Ultimately, it’s a tale of birth, death and renewal …and of course it embodies the myth of the origins of the season …”

Janet (whispering to Thandiwe, glaring at Danny and 'Gilby'): “I’ve seen better shoulders on a broom stick.”

Mrs Archer: “… spring, summer, autumn and winter.”

Nicola: “Who’s the author Mrs Archer?”

Mrs Archer: “Ah, it’s something I wrote myself. Sort of an adaptation from the German …”

'Slag', 'Backa' and 'Cheddar' noisily arrive - Mrs Archer is pleased at some more volunteers - and then rest of the scene involves Thandiwe snubbing Danny, and pairing up with Jock, who is being cut by Nicola …Danny and Nicola can’t quite bring themselves to pair off in response and glower at the new pairing…

Jock: “Where are you from?”

Thandiwe: “Uganda.”

Jock (slowly): “You speak really good English.”

Thandiwe: “So do you… where are you from?”

Jock: “Ah, near Cootamundra … my father is a grazier …”

Danny (V/O): “I wanted to see four steam rollers attached to Jock Blair’s arms and legs, driving in opposite directions …leaving only a twitching torso flowing blood like a live hose …”

Jock: “… and sheep. My father’s a man for all seasons.”

Danny (V/O): “And I wanted even worse things to happen to her. In the meantime, I’d make her ferociously jealous by pulling off the seduction of the century with Nicola Radcliffe…” (Nicola glowers at Danny).

A sultry Ellington Dance:

Cut to the refec and Danny choking on his food and Cutts asking what’s wrong with him now. 'Gilby' explains he’s feeling crook.

Cutts: “Your health is becoming a constant source of concern to us.”

'Slag': “It’s the Elephant Dick. It’s rank. It’s gunna get up and walk out of here.” ('Backa' and 'Cheddar' laugh).

Cutts: “Shut up Green.”

Cutts sends Danny off to Matron. Instead Danny gets into a boat, and to the sound of African-inflected drums, starts rowing over to Circencester College, where the girls are learning to dance to an Ellington number and Miss Anderson tells them to dance “sultry” …”Smoulder!”

Nicola and Thandiwe dance together …

Nicola: “I think we should swap partners in the musical.”

Thandiwe: “Why?”

Nicola: “You’re writing to him, aren’t you?”

Thandiwe: “Not any more …”

Nicola: “What happened?”

Thandiwe: “He shared one of them around.”

Nicola: “That wasn’t him! One of the other kids stole it and read it out aloud.”

(Thandiwe is startled, as Miss Anderson urges them to “challenge one another”).

Danny skulks up to the college, as Miss Macready tries to find a cat to feed.

Danny sneaks in through an upstairs balcony, but discovers the door is locked. He heads to an open window, and clambers inside, shocking the younger girls in bed.

They scream, but then realise it’s a St Alban’s kid. Using torch light, they rescue him from being stuck in the window …

Miss Macready arrives and Danny hides under the bed. The girls explain it was the window coming down, they thought it could be a murderer or a raper (“rapist” corrects Macready: “It’s a pity you don’t put that imagination of yours to work on your compositions Jean.”

Macready switches off the lights, and the girls offer to take Danny to see Thandiwe.

They approach the music and the dancing, and Danny looks inside to see the exotic dancing …

A girl tells Miss Anderson that Thandiwe’s father is on the phone.

A terrible attack of the trots:

Back in class, the pipe-cleaning 'Desert Head' asks where Danny is …

'Gilby': “Ah he had a terrible attack of the trots, sir.”

Elliott: “What, again?”

'Gilby': “It’s the Elephant, sir. I was in the toilet for an hour.”

Elliott: “What are you talking about?”

('Slag' is sniggering and then can’t hold back)

'Slag': “He means the Elephant Dick, sir!” (the class laughs. Elliott isn’t amused)

Elliott: “And er…what is Elephant Dick, Green?”

'Slag' (sniggering): “Meatloaf with egg in the middle, sir.”

Elliott: “I’ll see you in my office after prep.”

'Slag': “Yes, sir” (and still he sniggers over at 'Backa')

Elliott: “You think it’s funny?!!”

'Slag': “No sir.”

After the girls' dance:

Nicola and the other girls emerge from the dance. Danny is telling Thandiwe he’d better go, he’ll be missed and get the cane.

Thandiwe: “I feel terrible. I didn’t trust you. I won’t let you down again. I mean it.”

Nicola comes across the pair, as they kiss, and tells them to stop it, telling Thandiwe that Miss Anderson is asking where she is …

Thandiwe heads off and Nicola circles Danny:

Nicola: “You could be expelled for being found in these grounds.”

Danny: “Well, you see, I’m not actually here. This is a dream.”

Nicola: “You’d better get back to bed before it turns into a nightmare. If I do catch you again, that’s it.”

Danny walks away, pausing to turn back in his overcoat, and give her a Bogie-like farewell cluck of tongue and salute/wave …”Goodnight Nicola …” then runs away …as she watches him with a curious sense of yearning for love …

Danny learns about Africa:

Cut to a rugger bugger game …

Danny (V/O): Thandiwe started telling me about Africa as she knew it. (then Thandiwe and Danny sitting together)… how her mother was killed during the Mau Mau period in Kenya …how her father wrote books about African nationalism …and the problems created as the colonial government scrambled to get out …They’d been terrible times for the last few years …the Belgian Congo, Zanzibar (as Melissa, Janet and Gilby come up to sit alongside them) Angola, Kenya …places I’d barely heard of …”

Janet: “What’s happening?”

Thandiwe: “We’re just flirting …” ('Gilby' whistles)

Danny (V/O): “Often, I never really heard what she said. I’d be staring at her legs.” ('Gilby' whistles and puts his paw on Janet’s knee). They were very comforting …’cause sometimes …(CU on Thandiwe’s school-shoe-clad feet and lower legs) … there’d be little bruises on her …marks around her ankles from the elastic in her socks … That’s how come I knew she was real. 

Spying on the girls as the musical is prepared:

Cut to the boys getting dressed for the musical.

'Cheddar' is peering through a crack in the dressing room wall and announces he’s “cracking a monstrous fat.”

He can see everything in the girls’ dressing room.

'Backa': “Don’t cream yourself 'Cheddar'.”

We see their POV of the girls as they undress. 

'Cheddar': “God, there’s Nicola Radcliffe.”

They describe what she’s doing … taking off her shoes, unfastening her zip …as Nicola gets down to her bra.

Thandiwe is described as having a “great set” as 'Backa' decides to take a photo.

Danny tells him not to, 'Cheddar' says “tasty” as the three girls - Thandiwe, Janet and Melissa - French can can in their bras.

Danny grabs 'Backa' Bourke to stop the photo being taken, and the chant “fight, fight” goes up …

Jock Blair pulls them apart, saying that if they want to fight, they can do it in the ring with gloves …Friday at five, gloats 'Slag'.

Big John:

On the stage in full dress, the blonde comforts 'Backa' by suggesting Danny is a fairy and 'Gilby' urges Danny not to turn up on Friday. 'Backa’s' the top boxer in the school.

Cut to 'Backa' working on the fast ball, and as we see a picture of Sartre …

Danny (V/O): “I wonder if my old friend Jean-Paul Sartre would have fought in a situation like this …I know Cassius would have (photo of Ali) … I liked big Cassius …I liked his poems …he wasn’t built like Twiggy though …”

(at his desk, Danny begins to recite)

Every morning at the mine,

You could see him arrive,

He stood six foot 6, weighing 245 (photos of Sonny Liston)

He was kinda broad at the shoulders ('Backa' pummelling the speed ball)

And narrow at the hip

Everybody knew he didn’t give no lip 

It’s Big John … (Danny pulls out a famous Bond photo of Ursula Andress from beneath a photo of Queen Elizabeth II).

(singing)"... Big John …" (as he turns over the Andress photo to read, “Pull out! Brains are more valuable than honour. Imagine what a loss you’d be to mankind.”

"Big John …" (now 'Backa’s' pounding the heavy bag hard).

A boy announces telephone for Embling, Cutts tells him to “go west young man,” and Danny gets up, still singing “Big John… big John … big bad John...” 

Thandiwe is on the phone pleading with him: “If you do go ahead with this fight, I won’t have any respect for your intelligence at all …”

Danny: “Look don’t worry, I’ll see you on the weekend.”

The fight:

Jock Blair is the referee, 'Slag' is the announcer talking into his school tie in lieu of mike, and as the impressively cut 'Backa' arrives, 'Cheddar' makes a joke about 'Bird' probably chickening out.

Danny arrives, and 'Slag' calls him as weighing in at five and a half ounces, “the flea weight champion of the world, Danny “Poofter” Embling.” (cheers and whistling and chicken noises as 'Slag' tells his tie Embling will fall in one and 'Backa' wishes Danny “g g g good luck”).

'Gilby': “It’s not worth risking brain damage. Just kick him in the cods, honour will be satisfied.”

Danny makes it to round two, and 'Gilby' wants him to stop, urging him to think of his brain cells: “You’ll end up a bloody jelly head like him”. 

Danny: “You’re supposed to inspire me, not demoralise me completely.”

Danny persists, but as he cops a pounding, he grows delirious.

'Backa' transforms into Sonny Liston (Michael Williams) and as the slow mo echoing punches, backed by fight music (composer James D’Arcy) flatten him a second time and Jock counts him out, he fancies he sees Jean-Paul Sartre (Kurt Frey) ringside offering him a cigarette.

With Danny on the canvas, Thandiwe arrives to shout for them to stop it, and to get into the ring and caress Danny and berate Jock for just standing there and watching …

Danny’s getting patched by Matron as 'Gilby' tells Thandiwe he did try to talk him out of it.

'Gilby': “He’s a trifle unstable at times. I try and be the voice of reason. You’re a bit more sane, like me I think. Aren’t you?”

Thandiwe: “I can be pretty pig-headed too.”

'Gilby': “Oh so can I. Big lapses I have sometimes.”

Thandiwe (small smile): “I’d better go… give him my love …”

'Gilby': “Right.”

Hit by a bus:

Cutts is putting the Nazi decals on his model airplane as a battered Danny returns to class explaining he’s just been to the dispensary. 

Cutts: “Well what happened to you Embling? Get caught on the wrong side of a bus?”

Danny: “Sort of like a bus sir.”

'Gilby' passes Danny a card with “Big Bad Dan” on it that opens to reveal Danny inside, with his head cut and pasted on to a bodybuilder’s huge body.

The musical begins:

Cut to the musical, with the parents watching …

Afterwards Danny’s parents  - “certainly was different” says his dad about the show - awkwardly interact with Thandiwe’s parents…

Bruce Embling (Malcolm Robertson) and Sheila Embling (Judi Farr) shake hands with Solomon Adjewa (Freddie Paris) and Letitia Adjewa (Femi Taylor)...

Solomon: “Marvellous music.”

Sheila: “Sort of African, isn’t it?”

Bruce: “The program says German.”

Sheila: “Well I mean the rhythms remind me of that sort of thing.”

Danny: “Ah, Mr Adjewa’s lecturing at the University, in Canberra.”

Sheila: “Oh.”

Letitia: “Do you know Canberra much?”

Sheila: “I went to Parliament House when I was a girl.”

Solomon: “Yes, it still hasn’t quite found its feet as a city. It’s like Brasilia, built for politicians more than people.”

Bruce: “They built there because it was halfway between Melbourne and Sydney.”

Sheila: “I’ve always thought Brazil must be very interesting country.” (Solomon and Letitia look interested)

Bruce: “The furthest I’ve been’s New Guinea.”

Sheila: “Yes, my husband fought there during the war. He never talks about it thought.”

Solomon: “I’m not surprised. It must be hard for anyone else to understand how tough it was..."

Bruce (surprised, moved): “That’s true.” (A silence).

Letitia: “We’d better make a move.”

Solomon: “Yes, very nice to meet you.”

Bruce: “Nice to meet you.”

Letitia: “Look after Thandiwe for us.”

Danny: “We keep an eye on each other.”

Solomon: “So we hear.”

After a little more chit chat they leave and Danny’s mother notices his eye, and his father is pleased he’s now apparently playing football. Wing …

Bruce: “Good one. I’ll have to have a talk to Tom Alcock, let him know he might have a new recruit when you finish up here.”(nervous laugh)

Danny goes off to say goodbye to Thandiwe …and they agree to meet that night.

Nice girl, says dad, and mum lets out an awkward “yes” (but she is black, her tone implies).

Girl talk:

Janet, Melissa and Thandiwe are talking.

Janet: “Don’t go beyond six. You haven’t known him that long.”

Melissa: “Hmm, I’d say eight. Well, if you’re going to risk your neck in a midnight rendezvous, you might as well make it worthwhile …”

Thandiwe: “What’s eight?”

Melissa: “Top off, hands below …blissful.”

Janet: “But just don’t get caught like I did with tissues down your bra.”

Melissa: “You didn’t tell me about that. Well,what did you say?”

Janet: “I said it was ‘cause I had a cold and didn’t have any pockets.”

Melissa: “Janet!!”

Janet: “Can he be trusted though? Not to go into no man’s land …”

Melissa: “No man can …”

Janet: “Well she can control him…but can she control herself?”

(Thandiwe stares out the window and we cut to a wide shot of the lake separating the schools and then to Danny asleep with a book by Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, on his bed).

Boy talk:

Danny wakes and looks at his watch as 'Gilby' speaks:

“It’s as cold as a concrete cod. It’s no way she’ll turn up if it’s this cold. You made any preparations?”

Danny: “What do you mean?”

'Gilby': “Don’t be naive. Do you think she’s going to risk meeting you just for a chat?”

Danny: “Nooh.”

'Gilby': “She’ll expect you to have precautions. Probably wants to reward you for taking a stand in her self-defence. (as Danny puts on a coat) ... One thing … remember her needs as well as yours. In the long run, they’re more important. If you can give her pleasure, she’ll be back for more.” 

Danny (nodding): “See you Gilbert.”

Danny sneaks off and 'Gilby' leads out a heartfelt “Oh God.”

The first sex:

Danny rows across the lake as mournful recorder (Wolfgang Duigan) plays, and then is with Thandiwe …

Thandiwe: “My parents are going back to Uganda. Some kind of crisis. They want me to finish the year here …I’m worried for them …my father has so many enemies …there’s so much corruption, which he’s always writing about …It’s sad … there was real hope in our country ...”

(They sit down in front of a fire in the fireplace) 

Thandiwe: “Do you mind if we just kiss and touch a bit and leave it at that?”

Danny: “Sure.”

Danny caresses her breast and slips his hand between her thighs. “Welcome,” she says, and then as she tries to grab hold of his cock, “women’s clothes are much better designed for this sort of thing… you must get all squashed up in there, don’t you?”

Danny (voice wavering as she strokes him): “It can get pretty tricky sometimes …”

Thandiwe: “When it’s big?”

Danny: “Yeah, if it’s like … when you’re in church or something.”

Thandiwe: “Has it happened there?”

Danny: “It can ha happen anywhere.”

Thandiwe: “Aren’t bodies strange?”

Danny (eyes closed, coming): “You … you’d better stop.”

Thandiwe: “Why? (she sees/feels and smiles) Oh …”

Danny: “Sorry…”

Thandiwe: “I don’t mind.”

Danny: “I couldn’t stop it. Sorry I’m so …”

Thandiwe (smiling): “Sticky? … We both are …”

(They look at each other)

Danny: “You’re beautiful.”

Thandiwe: “I think you are too.”

(the recorder music returns as the pair are at the moonlit lake, skipping stones as the light bounces off the water).

Nicola talks with Thandiwe:

Thandiwe walks down the hallway and is intercepted by Nicola, lying that she’s been to the bathroom.

Nicola: “Do you always get dressed to do that?”

Thandiwe: “It was cold.”

Nicola: “I looked in before and your bed was empty. Where have you been?”

Thandiwe: “I went for a walk. I couldn’t sleep.”

Nicola: “Turn around… (Thandiwe turns) … your back is filthy … (Nicola begins pulling detritus off Thandiwe's cardigan …she sighs) … follow me …”

(They end up in the common room)

Nicola: “You want a milk drink or something?”

Thandiwe: “No thank you.”

Nicola: “Sit down… were you seeing Danny Embling? (getting out a couple of hard spirit glasses) I heard about his fight …it sounded awful (she unscrews a whiskey cap) ... I told Jock Blair what I thought of him for letting it happen…I also told another friend of mine to keep an eye on Danny …”

Thandiwe: “He can look after himself.”

Nicola (now with two neat hits of spirits): “Anyway, you shouldn’t be running off in the middle of the night to see him … (she hands one of the glasses to Thandiwe) …you could be picked up by the police, end up being expelled …(she knocks down her drink and feels the hard spirits kick in) … So (as she sits) … what did you actually do together?”

Thandiwe (coughing at the first taste of the drink and the question): “I beg your pardon?”

Nicola: “No, it’s alright. You don’t have to tell me … (another sip) … I think … if I liked somebody enough, I’d want to …”

Thandiwe: “Have you ever?”

Nicola: “Of course not …”

Thandiwe: “Almost?”

Nicola: “Well I … do you remember the young guy who was fixing the bell tower?”

Thandiwe: “Yeah.”

Nicola: “I used to take him a cup of tea each morning before assembly. I rather liked him, even though he never said anything much. (another sip by both of them). I used to … close my eyes …and sit on a chair …and let him touch me all over …as long as he promised not to take anything off …I thought I was so exquisitely daring, I’d almost faint …I’d have to sit down because I’d be trembling so much my legs would have given way …afterwards, I’d be reading a lesson, and convinced all the teachers must know because I was so …so shivery delicious all over …”

Thandiwe: “I’m amazed.”

Nicola (back to practical): “So am I when I think of it. Which I do most of the time …(another sip) … especially in maths …so … here’s to risks …" (she leans over and clinks glasses with Thandiwe).

Elephant Dick Again:

Cutts is handing out plates of food at the refec dining table, the notorious Elephant Dick ...

Not again, groans 'Slag', as Cutts tells the boys it’s good food … “Oh yeah, good for making you constipated, sir”, says 'Slag'

“You’re an expert on that subject are you Green?”

Laidlaw, a red-headed boy: “Yes he broke the record at cadet camp sir.”

Cutts: “And what record’s that?”

Cheddar: “Ten days without going to the toilet sir.”

'Slag': “It was the latrines sir, they were putrid.”

Cutts: “Thank you Green.”

'Slag': “Even the flies were fainting!”

Cutts: “That’s enough! This is good energy food …”

Laidlaw: “That’s what Embling needs sir, give him heaps.”

Cutts: “Why’s that Embling?”

Danny: “Don’t know sir.”

Laidlaw: “Looks a bit tired, don’t you reckon sir?”

Cutts: “He looks alright to me, apart from his black eye. What’s that you’re reading Green?”

'Slag': “Oh nothing sir.”

Cutts: “Give us a look.”

'Slag': “Oh it’s a note from my mother, sir.”

Cutts:“Come on.”

'Slag': “It’s intensely personal!”

Cutts: “Green!!!”

('Slag' hands over the note and Cutts reads it):

“What’s this about? (reading) Embling scored last night with lubra lips?” (The boys snigger) Who’s lubra lips?”

Danny: “Don’t know sir.”

Laidlaw: “What are you burning for Embling?”

'Backa': “Shut up Laidlaw. You wouldn’t know what scoring was.”

Cutts: “Perhaps you can tell us what it is Bourke?”

'Backa': “Lubra lips is what we call Fedderson, sir.” ('Cheddar' chokes on his food)...He played Embling at table tennis, lost 21-love.”

Cutts: “That’s very ingenious for you Bourke.”

Cutts tucks the note in his jacket pocket, then goes to pour salt, but the lid has been loosened and the salt spills all over his food …the boys, 'Slag' especially, laugh …until Cutts’ glare silences 'Slag'.

Cutts: “I’ll see you in my office, Green!”

Riding Horses and news from Africa:

The girls are riding horses.

Janet: “I had the longest letter yet today from Gilby. Twenty three pages …It’s like Wuthering Heights …”

Melissa: “I bet Heathcote had a long tongue.” (they laugh)

Miss Macready shouts at them that Miss Anderson wants to see Thandiwe in her office right away …

Miss Anderson introduces Dr Alison Pierce (Gillian Hyde) a colleague from Thandiwe’s father’s university: “Apparently your father was arrested shortly after he arrived.”

Thandiwe says she has to go back, and then she’s on the phone explaining to Danny that she can’t get a flight for a couple of days, but Miss Anderson thinks she's leaving tomorrow.

Janet takes photos, as Thandiwe gets ready to leave for the train...

Miss Anderson reminds her she’s leaving against her advice. The girls wave farewells as Thandiwe gets into the taxi and we hear Danny as the taxi drives away.

Danny (V/O): “I don’t think fate is a creature, or a lady, like some people say. It’s a tide of events sweeping us along. But I’m not a fatalist, ‘cause I believe you can swim against it. And sometimes, grasp the hands of the clock face and steal a few precious minutes …(on the girls left behind) If you don’t … you’re just cartwheeled along …and before you know it, the magic opportunity’s lost …and for the rest of your life, it lingers on in that part of your mind which dreams the very best dreams, taunting you and tantalizing you with what might have been …”

The Motel Tropicana:

The departing figures of Janet and Melissa dissolve into a vulgar night-time neon sign for the Motel Tropicana...

Danny and Thandiwe go into motel reception and tell the motel manager (Harry Lawrence) that their name is Camus …Thandiwe has to spell it out for him.

The manager gives them the keys, and then they're looking into the room at the period decor.

Danny closes the door, joking “should keep the world out” and she turns and says “here we are.”

Thandiwe produces a bottle of champagne that Nicola got for them by going out and making herself look about 25. As she gets glasses we hear Danny:

Danny (V/O): "I often think how all of us… all going through the normal grubby business of school and growing up …all most incredible things were happening in her world, but she liked me enough to do this …to say goodbye …”

Cut to Miss Macready and then Cutts learning about the scam …and then Elliott picking up the phone book, saying there can’t been too many motels in the town …

Back in the motel, Danny and Thandiwe undress and get into bed and begin to make tender love, as we cut to a snoring motel manager and a dancing hula hoop toy in front of a tropical fish tank…

Back in the motel, the pair kiss as the camera pulls slowly back and the motel room disappears into the pool of ever growing black around it …

And then outside the motel, the teachers’ cars arrive in convoy …

Anderson, Macready, Cutts and Elliott break in on the sleeping pair.

Anderson tells them to get dressed, telling Thandiwe to get dressed in the bathroom, for goodness sake.

Elliott glowers at Danny as he gets dressed : “Well your parents are going to be very disappointed in you Embling. Seems like you haven’t learned very much at all while you’ve been with us.”

Thandiwe emerges dressed.

Danny: “Aren’t they all funny?”

Thandiwe: “Aren’t they …”

Anderson: “I think we’d better go …”

Thandiwe: “Yes, I’m ready …”

She and Danny shake hands gently … then she turns and leaves and the teachers follow …

Danny follows, and watches as Thandiwe gets into the car. She leans out:

Thandiwe: “You keep this half of the world going…

Danny (shouting after her): “You look after the other…”

And then she’s driven away out of his life …

Danny’s face is superimposed over, and then we see a montage of shots of Africa and turmoil and death and firing squads and killings …

Danny (V/O): “I realised I hadn’t any idea what she’d gone back to …the letters came back every week, and in one, she told me about an army officer called Idi Amin …and in another, how her stepmother had disappeared …and she was looking after her brother and sister …we read in the papers her father had been executed …"

And a soldier attacking a car windscreen while Thandiwe screams …and then a cut to black …

"And then the letters stopped …"


Cut to a wide shot of sheep in a paddock and in the distance the small town of Braidwood.

"After I was expelled, I went back home …and worked in my dad’s pub …(we see the pub and Danny taking beers out on to the verandah) … I was a bit like a sleepwalker …the old town hardly seemed real anymore …I spent my time writing to embassies and government ministers, even the Prime Minister (Danny begins reading a book on Marx in front of a Tooths KB sign) … but mostly … I concentrated …"

Danny’s room, and Sartre’s Iron in the Soul is on the table as he enters with a soulful sounding bull-roarer whirling …

"...An ether surrounds the world, washing over us all the time … and all sorts of messages get transmitted through it …I had this dread I’d suddenly one day know she’d gone …I spent most of the time willing her to be all right …sending, love, I suppose …that word neither of us had used ‘cause … we’re both too cool for that …”

As the mournful sounds continue, Danny looks at a letter addressed to him, lying on the bed, with Kenyan stamps on it …(it gives his address as the Lord Palmerston hotel, though the pub sign told us it was the Commercial Hotel) …

Cut to Danny walking up the hill to his favourite spot, as seen in The Year My Voice Broke …and poignant Vaughan Williams’ music plays.

He reads the letter …and we hear Thandiwe’s voice:

“Danny … we’re in Nairobi now and finally safe …a lot of things have happened …I’m very different, I think, to how I was when you last knew me …but I’m waiting for the time when we’ll be able to sit down together …and look into each other’s eyes again …I look forward to that time more than I can say …”  

The camera pulls back and the music swells.

Danny (V/O): “Suddenly there were much bigger worlds again …and some small place in them … for me …

The music swells again, and as a cloud crosses the rock on which Danny sits, the image fades to black, and end credits begin to roll ...


The film's publicity emphasised one Porky's style 'spying on the girls' scene

In fact the publicists so loved the 'spying on the girls' scene they put it on the same lobby card as a photo of the director John Dugian on location

The film begins with an SM bout of caning, typical of the way secondary schools conducted business in the early 1960s

There's a lascivious attention to the pornography of caning

Cane on bottom ... an image of 1960s schooling and unconscious sexuality

A tremulous snail also sneaks into the SM caning scene

Naturally the snail curls up, this being a metaphor

The teacher shows a fetishist's love for chalking the cane

There's a later ritual inspection of maimed backside

Not for the last time, 'Backa' Bourke shows his style

Voyeurism and a camera make an early entry

'Gilby' has a vision of Xanadu, thanks to Nicola Radcliffe

Perhaps the most gratuitous scene is a competitive dressing conducted by Thandiwe and a blonde in their dorm

There doesn't seem to be much point to the scene except to compare and contrast young bodies

The fetishising continues with application of lipstick

The toilet scene allows for a balancing of the books, and for the boys' bodies to be shown

The toilet scene allows for a balancing of the books, and for the boys' bodies to be shown

Here the girl is the voyeur

Meanwhile the relationship develops by way of a genteel kiss

Pagan Ellington music assists some sultry dancing

The girls' dorm ... land of the other and the exotic

Another genteel kiss

Danny is distracted by Thandiwe's legs

The Porkys-style scene begins

Nicola is part of the parade ogled by the hidden boys

The publicists loved this image

Director Duigan also dwells at length on the moment

Perhaps it was conceived as a way of scoring in the US market - but it now feels conventional, a little over-extended and a tad exploitative

The Queen and Ursula Andress score an odd juxtaposition

'Backa' gets to show off his body in the boxing ring

The penultimate sex scene is a bout of mutual masturbation, and it's perhaps the best played part of the film

Danny does a good range of looks as he comes in a sticky way

The sex here is more beguiling, and convincing, for keeping everything hidden, in true mid-1960s style, before hippiedom and free love arrived down under

There's touching, but no seeing, and it works better than the dressing room scene

The tenderness helps keep the PG rating intact

The final sex scene takes place in a motel, an unlikely location in rural Australia for the period

Again the encounter is discreet and mindful of the film's PG ambitions

The sex is expressed via a gyrating doll in the hotel manager's office

Some liked the device of "doll as sex", some thought it too cute

The encounter itself drifts off into a visual void

Then comes the reckoning at the hands of tut-tutting cluck-clucking teachers

There's a final re-dressing for Thandiwe

And Danny gets to show off his period correct underpants