ABR Arts is generously supported by ABR Patrons and Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.
Brian McFarlane Tuesday, 01 May 2018
Published in ABR Arts

In Simon Baker’s film, there is a visually stunning moment – one among many – of a giant curving wave on the verge of breaking that recalls the Japanese artist Hokusai’s famous ‘The Great Wave of Kanagawa’. What these two images share is the sense of rapturous beauty that doesn’t underestimate the challenge it offers. It seems appropriate to start on this note as the cinematography (the work of Marden Dean and Rick Rifici) creates from the outset the centrality of the surf to the film, as indeed it is in Tim Winton’s 2008 novel.

Winton has in recent years been well served in the matter of his novels’ being adapted to the screen. The television miniseries Cloudstreet (2011) captured the novel’s poetic dealings with the possibility of reconciliation between contrasting approaches to living, and the three-hour Turning (2013), for which Winton co-authored the screenplay, miraculously wove seventeen of his short stories of interlocking lives into a coherent panorama – or mosaic? – of turning points and convergences in a coastal community. In Breath, his voice is heard on the soundtrack as that of Bruce Pike (‘Pikelet’), a mature version of the film’s youthful protagonist, drawing on the novel’s perceptions, as he intones: ‘Never had I seen something so beautiful, so pointless and elegant, as if dancing on water was the best thing a man could do.’

Read the rest of this article by subscribing to ABR Online for as little as $10 a month.

We offer a range of subscription options, including print, which can be found by clicking here. If you are already a subscriber, enter your username and password in the ‘Log In’ section in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

If you require assistance, contact us or consult the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Published in ABR Arts
Brian McFarlane

Brian McFarlane

Brian McFarlane’s latest book is Four from the Forties: Arliss, Crabtree, Knowles and Huntington, Manchester: MUP, 2018. He has had three overlapping careers, as teacher, academic, and writer. He is the author or editor of over twenty books and hundreds of articles and reviews on film and literature and related matters. He co-edited The Oxford Companion to Australian Film and was compiler, editor and chief author of The Encyclopedia of British Film. His most recent books include: Twenty British Films: A guided tour and Double-Act: The remarkable lives and careers of Googie Withers and John McCallum. He is currently serving as Adjunct Professor at Swinburne University of Technology and as Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.