3 June 2009

Review: 3 Acts of Murder

Many thanks to author Felicity Young, for the following review.

‘Just because you give someone an idea for murder, does that make you responsible for the crime?’

So reads the tagline of Taylor Media’s upcoming television movie, 3 Acts of Murder. This is the story of Arthur Upfield (played by Robert Menzies), a depression-era crime writer whose search for the perfect crime inspired young sociopath, Snowy Rowles (Luke Ford), to undertake a murderous rampage in the Murchison area, near the rabbit proof fence.

The first 2 Acts of the movie set the scene in the Murchison: the sandblasted country, the flies, the loneliness of the war-damaged author, the nature of the criminal sociopath and his victims. Act 3, Recrimination, explores the responsibility of the author and shows Upfield wrestling with his conscience.

Arthur Upfield’s book The Sands Of Windee was published. Sales soared when the general public learned that Snowy had been arrested and charged with several murders. Snowy was summarily hanged for his crimes.

Upfield’s elation at his novel’s success was tarnished by the knowledge that if not for his book, four men, including the executed Snowy, would still be alive. He comforted himself with the belief that a fiction writer is not accountable for the effect of his words.

You can’t stop someone reacting in an aberrant way to art, be it movies, music literature etc, but most artists would be appalled to learn that their work had inspired someone to commit a heinous crime. One of the most interesting issues explored in 3 Acts is Upfield’s lack of empathy for Snowy’s victims. Crime writers must distance themselves from their work if they are to sleep at night. But Upfield seems to have distanced himself to the extent that the true-life victims are no more real to him than the characters of his book — possibly a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder brought about by his wartime experiences.

His wife, Anne (played by a suitably care-worn Anni Finsterer) is not a fan of his books. When she suggests that he tries his hand at romance writing, he says he can’t: ‘I don’t understand what passes for passion between people.’ Later on he admits to her, ‘I’m not good with character.’ His relationship with his wife and son shows a similar failure to connect.

And yet he genuinely grieves for Snowy. He knew Snowy, Snowy was a ‘Decent, friendly bloke.’ It seems that not only was Upfield no good at writing character; he wasn’t much good at judging it either.

3 Acts of Murder is a unique take on a fascinating concept, the responsibility of Art. The movie vividly portrays the true-life background to Upfield’s novel, The Sands of Windee, and the moral dilemma for the author following its release. There is a lot to admire about this movie: the setting, the superb performances and above all the glimpse into the mind of Australia’s most internationally successful crime writer. It is sure to appeal to all lovers of crime fiction and intelligent, thought provoking Australian drama.

3 Acts of Murder will be shown on ABC 1 on Sunday June 14th at 8.30 PM

Felicity Young is the the author of A CERTAIN MALICE, AN EASEFUL DEATH, HARUM SCARUM, and SKIN ON SKIN (forthcoming 2010).


Dorte H said...

‘Just because you give someone an idea for murder, does that make you responsible for the crime?’

I saw your post yesterday, but didn´t have time or energy to consider the question seriously. Today I have had more time to think, and the questions has become even more relevant to me.
The other day one of my fellow students from the writing course wrote a short text about a young woman who had a sexual relationship with her father - and obviously loved him.
The interesting thing is people´s reactions: many of them think she condones incest and gives pervert fathers a weapon they can use. My own reaction was that just like an author is not responsible if anyone copies ´her murder´, an author is not responsible for her main character who may believe her feelings for her father is love.
I would probably not want to read a novel if the main character had this point of view, but that is not the same as claiming the author is responsible for her readers´ (re)actions.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed with this production but how could it ever have lived up to the hysterical spruiking that all these ABC shows get? They had the set, the cast, the story, clearly some budget too and yet produced a disjointed mess full of continuity issues with appalling sound production.

Kerrie Smith said...

It took a while to work out what on earth was going on, didn't it?
I liked the buzzing of the flies though.


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