A vindictive drama-comedy movie, The Dressmaker, is enchantingly intricate. The movie, whose plot is adapted from Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker (2000), is directed by Joocelyn Moorhouse and released at 22th October 2015. This 118 minutes movie is starred by the professional Kate Winslet as an attractive dressmaker named Myrtle Dunnage, the handsome Liam Hemsworth as Teddy McSwiney, Hugo Weaving as the creative Sergeant Farrat, and Judy Davis as the mother of Myrtle, which later on changes her name into Tilly, Molly Dunnage. Both Molly Dunnage and Myrtle Dunnage becomes the central focus of the story which takes places in fictitious, small and isolated town in rural Australia called Dungatar, in which both of them are outcasted because the townspeople are small minded. Dungatar is the kind of place where everybody knows everybody else’s business and has for their entire lives and the landscape is really emphasized here because it becomes the place where everything which builds the plot and tension takes place. The Dressmaker’s marvelous cinematography, costumes, sound, editing, sets, sarcastic humor and drama also fit together, therefore, they support the purpose of the movie, which is to satirize the townspeople, and give an effect of the film’s feel of Australian realist style. Therefore, this movie becomes a truly clever satire about village life.
This movie starts with Tilly Dunnage’s homecoming after years away from her tiny hometown in rural Australia in which she is welcomed with townspeople’s stares, silence, glares and grumpiness. She is sent away 25 years ago because she is accused of doing murder to her friend, Steward Pettyman, and now, she comes home to seek the truth whether she has killed him or not. Tilly comes home with decades of couture dressmaking experience — having studied under the tutelage of Balmain, Balenciaga, and Dior; Together with her mom, Mad Molly, they start to open a dressmaking business at their home up on the hill. The townspeople are really lack of fashion, and the homecoming of Tilly can really satiny transform their appearance into a stylish one. People who, at first, only mock at Tilly start to come to her and praise the dress made by her. However, the townspeople are stubborn enough to accept her. They keep considering Tilly and Mad Molly as an outcast even though they have helped them in dressing – Tilly is a murdered and Molly is a whore. However, the townspeople never realize that they are the one who are ignorant, reluctant, selfish, small-minded, and having odd-behavior. Tilly helps Gertrude to chase the man she loves, William, yet after she gets him and unfortunately Tilly is still remembered as the murderer of Steward Pettyman – even though she is not because Steward has killed himself, the townspeople which are provoked by Gertrude – who later on also changes her name into Trudy, still mock at her and see her as the unaccepted one because she is considered cursed. This condition worsens when the only man who loves Tilly, Teddy McSwiney, dies on the accident when they are alone together. When there is Drama Competition using best costume as one of the judgement criteria, townspeople – who really have no shame, come to Tilly to ask her to be Dungatar’s Costume Designer yet, she rejects them. Dungatar will play Shakespear’s Scottish play, Macbeth. Finally, before Old Molly dies, she arranges a vengeful plan for her daughter – Tilly becomes a costume designer for the rival of Dungatar, she reveals the truth about the killing, and she burns Dungatar while all of the townspeople are going to the competition, then she goes to Melbourne.
The characters’ acting in this movie is really evocative and successful. Kate Winslet’s acting in The Dressmaker as the major dynamic character is really effective. The bold character of her face and her sight is really helpful in creating an expression of both entertainingly vampy and vulnerable to emphasize both the comedy and the drama of the movie therefore how she acts as Tilly Dunnage is really total. How Winslet plays the character is just suitable with the situation. Winslet can really represent Rosalie Ham’s Tilly Dunnage. Together with the mise en scene, she can glamorously reveal the scandals of the townspeople, she can self-loathingly resist the overtures of the kind Teddy, brilliantly sorts out troubling mysteries about a childhood glimpsed in color-drained flashback, and impressively takes revenge towards them. This is also valid with other characters; Judy Davis can really bring Rosalie Ham’s Mollie Dunnage to the screen, Hugo Weaving can passionately transform Rosalie Ham’s Sergeant Farrat into alive, and Sarah Snook can be naturally cruel in playing Rosalie Ham’s Gertrude Pratt.
As it is mentioned before, the filmmaking techinques employed in this movie are really helpful in supporting both the acting and the plot’s tension and resolution. For example, in the beginning of the movie, the cinematography, lighting, music, and editing is just so well suited and arranged that they could give the watcher’s insight or foreshadowing about what will happen throughout the movie. In the opening – when Tilly is in the way back to Dungatar using bus during the evening, this movie employs the arrangement of the combination between top shot, tilt shot, tracking shot, extreme wide shot, very wide shot, wide shot, mid shot, close up, medium close up, long shot, low angle shot, and high angle shot which can depict a striking use of perspective. The lighting is just so perfect, that the audience can know that the one who is coming will be the focus of the attention. Moreover, the combination between present scene and flashback scene is totally effective in creating the further tension. Dessert landscape becomes the major background object of each scenes, and most of them are taken with extreme wide shot to show how isolated Dungatar is. The editing is very effective in combining those scenes which is taken with various shot. Another point is that, the opening music – alternative folk country music, which is directly arranged by David Hirsfelder can really improve the tension and the character’s identity and characteristic of Australia. Hirsfelder makes 25 alternative folk and classic score for this movie in order to enhance each scene’s dramatic effect created by the cinematography, costume, and editing.
From the overall view of the movie, the movie is successful in adapting Rosalie Ham’s book, The Dressmaker (2000). However, there are some integral aspects that is not well represented in the movie. For example, in the end of the movie Tilly does not make a baroque costume for Dungatar whereas in the book Tilly is the one who make the costume for Dungatar in Drama Competition. Then, the existence of the Dimm sister in the book is neglected by the movie; One of the Dimm Sister should be the Dungatar School teacher, yet the movie carries Beulah to be the school teacher. Even though there are still some scenes which are not exactly represented in the movie, the movie still represents the overall story, symbolism, and theme of the novel. The book which is divided into four chapter – Gingham, Shantung, Felt, and Brocade, is adapted exactly through its message, its aim, and the symbolisms of the theme – such as the house up on the hill or landscape, the fabric used as the material or fashion, and the naming of each characters, are really visualized. The revenge and the use of comedy as a satire are very significant and powerful.
In conclusion, this movie is very intriguingly delightful, where in the end the audience will be satisfied and want to see more movies like this. I cannot say that this is the best film we will ever see all year however I can assure that we will not see another movie like this again for a long time. Watching this movie was surely like being in an unforgettable dream in which we will feel enlightened when we wake up. You may prove it by yourself!