Exotic period pieces are his specialty

After a Hollywood detour to direct the action-thriller "Double Jeopardy," Bruce Beresford is back in familiar territory.

His latest film, "Bride of the Wind," is a quiet character study - although that quiet refers more to the tone than the lush classical-music soundtrack.

An early 20th-century period piece, "Bride of the Wind" examines the life and loves of Alma Mahler, wife to musician Gustav Mahler and, after his death, architect Walter Gropius, and lover to numerous other creative luminaries of her day, including flamboyant artist Oskar Kokoschka.

"This film is a chance to see a fascinating story about astounding people living in the last flourish of grand Victorian living," says the Australian-born and- bred director.

"Alma herself was an extraordinary woman, way ahead of her time," he says, pointing to her accomplishments as a composer and her determination not to be diminished as a creative person in a time that allowed women narrowly defined societal roles.

Alma Mahler's story is full of rich music, both her own and her husband's.

Although Beresford appreciated the opportunity to do a mainstream, plot-driven film in "Double Jeopardy," his nearly 30-year career has been marked by an emphasis on exploring the working of the individual psyche.

Beresford's 1989 "Driving Miss Daisy" which took home a best-picture Oscar, and "Breaker Morant" (1980), the film that put him in the international spotlight, are both character studies and period films.

Alma was a famous beauty of her day, Beresford says, highly intelligent, a gifted concert pianist, and involved with many of the most prominent creative minds of her day.

"It's an exotic story filled with passionate people," he says.

In both matters of style and content, the movie is a return to issues that have concerned Beresford throughout his career. He likes to make films about the inner passions that drive people, and he believes the best movies come from a person's point of view.

He also does not believe in the idea of using a committee of writers to script a film.

"I've worked with many good writers, among them people like playwright Horton Foote," he says. "There's no way you can achieve the sort of individual voice of a true artist by committee."

What multiple writers will turn out may be competent and work as mass entertainment, he says, but "it will have no individuality, it will be dull as a doornail."

Unlike much of Hollywood, the man many have called one of the fathers of contemporary Australian cinema likes writers.

"I believe in well-written dialogue," he says. "I like it when the dialogue sparkles." Movies, he adds, are driven by good dialogue, and he tries to lay the foundation of solid, thoughtful dialogue in any movie he works on.

Beresford says he knew he was going to be a director before he hit his teens.

"I was in primary school, and I told my parents, 'I'm going to be a film director,' " he remembers with a laugh. "They all thought it was a great joke, but, well, here I am."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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