“The Insatiable Moon”- a NZ Movie

I went and saw this movie on Sunday night. What a great movie it was too. Filmed around Grey Lynn and Ponsonby it is a movie based on the book by Mike Riddell. It is inspired by real experiences. At the heart of the film is a boarding house where ex psychiatric patients live, as the asylums have closed. Arthur, is one of these boarders. He says he hears the voice of God and that he is the second son of God.

A real gem. It is a film that has a very respectful way about it. Showing the importance of compassion in our material world.

You can see the review from the NZ Herald here here is an excerpt

And there were the twilight people: mainly men, they were the product of the new “community mental health” initiatives, unreliably medicated psychiatric patients living on benefits in the boarding houses that were a feature of the landscape.

Mike Riddell knows something of that demi-monde because he moved in it. A theologian by training, he was the vicar at the Ponsonby Baptist Church in Jervois Rd, a ministry in which he often rubbed shoulders with the psych patients. I recall a moving funeral service he conducted there for a childhood friend of mine, Alan Stimpson, a florid, gentle-giant schizophrenic who had taken his own life.

“People like Alan would have a social welfare grant to pay for their funeral,” Riddell recalls, “but it wasn’t enough. So we had an arrangement with an undertaker that he would lend us a coffin so we could put on a funeral and then they’d bury him in something more modest.

The Baptist system is a fairly miserable bloody denomination in some ways but the Ponsonby Baptist Church happened to be a group of people who were a bit more broadminded and interested in people. There was so much humanity and humour at those funerals. They were great.”

Just such a funeral is a central scene in The Insatiable Moon and it’s filmed at Ponsonby Baptist – “It was the director of photography’s decision because he liked the inside of the church,” says Riddell.

One character’s eulogy consists of repaying the deceased’s many kindnesses by laying a cigarette on the coffin lid. “That’s a tailor-made too,” she adds for emphasis.

So it goes without saying that The Insatiable Moon is a portrait drawn from life. Riddell wrote it as a novel and then, over several years, adapted it into the screenplay for the film which an opening title describes as “inspired by Arthur of Ponsonby”.

“Arthur lived in a boarding house that doesn’t exist any more down Shelly Beach Rd,” says Riddell. “He was a lovely guy, a big fella with long hair, who looked a bit like [Tuhoe prophet and activist] Rua Kenana. He was illiterate but very engaging and charismatic, a fluent Maori speaker.

“He used to come into the vicarage sometimes and ask me to tell people that he was the second son of God, so we used to have great conversations. And after one of those sessions I thought: ‘Gee, what if he is the second son of God? How would I know?’ And that was the creative spark for the story.”

To say that it sounds improbable, even banal, is to understate matters. But Riddell makes it work, both by his unforced skill as a writer and the deep humanity of the story.

The same humanity infuses the film, one of the most modest Kiwi flicks in a long time, but one that gets under your skin. A cast to die for includes Rawiri Paratene as Arthur (when people say “Lovely day”, he replies “Thanks. Glad you like it”; Sara Wiseman as Margaret, a social worker whose marital crisis puts her on a collision course with Arthur; a terrific Ian Mune as an unrepentant dero; and show-stealer Greg Johnson, as the cheerfully foul-mouthed and relentlessly good-hearted proprietor of the boarding house that is home to Arthur and the other psych patients. And the story, a winning mix of pathos, humour and, well, wonder, concerns the challenge posed to Arthur’s celestial pedigree when the boarding house is threatened with closure.”

 The official website is here http://www.theinsatiablemoon.com/

Here is the trailer

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3 thoughts on ““The Insatiable Moon”- a NZ Movie

  1. I saw this film on an Air New Zealand flight on my way to NZ from the UK for a holiday. I was gripped by it and feel it deserves a world-wide audience. Although it is very much a New Zealand film the themes are universal and particularly sensitively explored. All the actors were brilliant and combined to make an improbable scenario quite believable – I found myself hoping at one point that Arthur really would prove to be the second son of God! It made me think of Mike Leigh’s films, especially his most recent “Another Year”. If this reflects the quality of NZ film making then why don’t we hear more about it? Worth half a dozen Hollywood blockbusters – I intend to watch it again soon! By the way, New Zealand was fantastic!

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