The Turning: how seventeen short stories became one film

02 February 2015

Short stories are often adapted into films: Annie Proulx's story 'Brokeback Mountain' became the film with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal; there's Truman Capote's novella Breakfast at Tiffany's which is now more synonymous with Audrey Hepburn than the author; Christopher Nolan's film Memento started life as a short story by his brother Jonathan. But whereas all of these films are adapted from one story, The Turning, out later this month, is based on a whole collection by Australian author Tim Winton – seventeen stories in total. 

First published in 2005, Tim Winton's collection describes turnings of all kinds: second thoughts, changes of heart, nasty surprises, slow awakenings, abrupt transitions. The seventeen stories overlap to paint a cohesive picture of a world where people in a small Australian coastal community struggle against the terrible weight of their past and challenge the lives they have made for themselves. 

The Turning
The UK edition of The Turning

Each story has been interpreted and directed by a different Australian artist, including Mia Wasikowska, Warwick Thornton, Marieka Walsh and Ian Meadows. Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving all star in the film. 

So how did it all come about? Robert Connolly, who conceived of the project, sent out copies of the book to various people across the arts, from directors to choreographers and visual artists. There was no brief, only a request for them to choose the story that spoke most clearly to them. When it came to filming, there was no style to which they had to conform.

Here's Robert Connolly:

‘Our plans for the theatrical release of The Turning extend on this creative approach, presenting in the cinema a similar experience to entering an art gallery, allowing a personal response to the many unique threads and connections without losing the value of experiencing each individual work and the artist behind it. The Turning presents a unique invitation to an audience, to come into the cinema to experience and investigate each of the works, to discuss them, debate them and create their own meanings.

‘Our key image for the film is an image from Tim’s book, a group of friends around a bonfire on a beach. In many ways this is the campfire we have gathered our storytellers around, now inviting you, our audience, to join us there to hear 17 uniquely Australian stories, told by some of [Australia's] most talented storytellers.’

Lead photograph: Hugo Weaving as Bob Lang, Commission (based on Tim Winton's The Turning) © David Dare Parker Commission David Dare Parker

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