ANZAC Girls Through Rose Coloured Glasses

Behind the scenes of ANZAC GIRLS by Matt Nettheim
Behind the scenes of ANZAC GIRLS by Matt Nettheim

It’s no secret I love a good period piece.

I’ve watched every season of Underbelly just for the art direction. And don’t get me started on the Miss Fisher series. Nostalgia with a twist of feminist history, my kind of Friday night.

So of course there was much delight in my household when ANAZAC Girls finally appeared in the TV guide.

Shot here in Adelaide at the Adelaide Studios I literally watched it come together around me. The northern side of my office block became a 1915 Greek Village and undeveloped rooms upstairs in to a Cairo hospital. Passing streams of extra’s dressed as World War 1 patients was just a trip to the post box some days.

But it did not stop there. ANZAC Girls is the perfect advertisement for film locations in SA. In fact I’ve recognised so many in this series I’ve started a drinking game. And just as well, because I am starting to think I need a stiff drink to get through it.

There are many ways you can tell the ANZAC story and ANZAC Girls had the makings for something really special. The cast is  strong, loving Anna McGahan as Olive and Caroline Craig does well too. Unfortunately the script’s not giving them much to really sink their teeth in to.

Then there is the cinematography which feels to me unimaginative and the edit almost formulaic. But aside from the issues I have with the lack of storytelling, there is a much bigger problem with the series.

ANZAC Girls highlights the problem with celebrating a major event like the Gallipoli landing on such a grand scale and what it does for our understanding history.

The ANZAC story is thick with nostalgia, full of stories of legend, loss and love. And with so many ways to tell it series like this sadly falls through the quality control cracks.

Of all the ANZAC series that will be coming out in the next 12 – 18 months, ANZAC Girls was the first. Admittedly there were high expectations – how often do we talk about women on the frontline when we talk about Gallipoli?

Unrecognised by the Army, they too did it hard with their own casualties.

World War 1 was a terrible campaign that we suffered from dearly. Yet remembering it through the filter of ANZAC Girls it does what Lieutenant General David Morrison was concerned about. It romanticises war and creates a myth around it.

In the world of ANZAC Girls the injured were treated and we assume survive as they die only occassionally. But more amazingly in these harsh conditions the Sister’s uniforms stay clean, their hair is washed and no ounce of dirt makes it on their face.

I have not seen such staid television like this in years. And I know why. It is an outdated history lesson, sentimental yet lacking emotion and just like the Sister’s uniofrms, everything is sterile.

1 Comment

  1. The comments in this article are valid, and they are largely true. The great problem is not that the history lesson is outdated, there are much older stories from history that work brilliantly. The histories of Shakespeare and even those of long before.

    The problem with ANZAC Girls is that the direction is lame, the writing is banal, and the overall artwork is every bit as sterile as that Spielberg travesty “War Horse.”
    The characters are portrayed as if they began and ended in the battle fields and make shift hospitals. They are romanticised without having a grounding in characterisation, and the general result is overplaying. This is what happens when the emotion is allowed to drive the characters, instead of the other way around.

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