A Film Script of ‘Voss’


Last year it looked as though the long projected plans for making a film of Patrick White's Voss were all under way. Joseph Losey, whom White favoured as director, was enthusiastic, Maximilian Schell had agreed to play Voss, an excellent screenplay had been written by the English playwright, David Mercer, and then everything came unstuck. The Australian Film Commission, which had been thought friendly to the project, withdrew from supporting it. The reason which led to its withdrawal had to do with the fact that it could only provide finance for Australian films, and there was a difference of opinion over whether the film was substantially Australian. The prime mover for the project, as producer and part financial backer, was Harry Miller and when the Australian Film Commission withdrew he put plans for the film on to the back burner. Another controversy surrounding the filming of Voss was the choice of screen writer. Disgruntled noises were heard coming from local writers when a screenplay by David Mercer, an Englishman, was accepted. Voss is a very literary novel, and much of its force depends on the abrasions of public circumstances and private feelings, the most obvious being the fact that Voss is about a mystical quest which on the other hand is financed, and launched, by a set of rather grubby-minded Sydney businessmen and politicians. So to the extent that the book depends on these rather delicate interactions this poses a large problem for the writer of a screenplay who tries to import these subtleties into the one-dimensional visual tyranny of film.

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Published 1 October 1978 in Volume 8 No. 4. Subjects: Film scripts & screenplays, Literary adaptations, Symbolism, Patrick White.

Cite as: Wetherell, Rodney. ‘A Film Script of ‘Voss’.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 8, no. 4, 1978, doi: 10.20314/als.815c7df36a.