With the patrons of the 2019 Brisbane International Film Festival being Baz Lurhman and Catherine Martin; it should come as no surprise that one of the key featured films of the festival is a contemporary adaptation of a Shakespeare play. In this case, Measure for Measure is a retelling of the Bard’s script by the same name though co-writer/director Paul Ireland only employs the loose story structure as the basis for his film.
The film revolves around a young Muslim woman named Jaiwara (Megan Hajjar) who falls in love with a non-Muslim man named Claudio (Harrison Gilbertson). The story follows the pair as they try to preserve their relationship surrounded by a rough and near-unforgiving criminal landscape. Hugo Weaving plays the crime lord Duke and while his role isn’t as prominent as you’d expect, his presence reigns supreme throughout the whole film. His performance commands each scene while refraining from ever stealing the spotlight from the rest of the cast. Other performances are permitted breathing room, allowing them to flourish and hold their own against this certified legend of Australian cinema. But the true star of Measure for Measure is absolutely Hajjar in her role as Jaiwara. She’s delicate when she needs to be but still carries a great strength at her core, serving as an instrumental factor in bringing to life the meaning and tone of the film.
Probably the best (and certainly most unique) aspect of the film is how it utilises its music. The score is booming and courses through you bringing this ethereal texture with it. While the film is quite violent and deals with some harsh subject matter; the music allows for the emotion of the scene to be prioritised rather than the brutality, bringing with it a unique tone.
Another commendable effort of Measure for Measure is how it shows metropolitan Australia. It has a specific focus on bringing Melbourne to life and so many great specific locations are shown to give a better idea of what the city has to offer. Though, with this modern take comes some odd hiccups with modernising Shakespeare’s work. Certain aspects feel they would have been much stronger in the context of a 1600s setting and while they may have made sense in a dramatised play; the same can’t be said for a contemporary crime drama film.
Measure for Measure proves a solid enough effort as the sophomore feature for director Paul Ireland. While there are some odd hiccups throughout that bring about certain inconsistencies within the film; it’s worth checking out as a solid enough Australian crime drama.
Measure for Measure will receive a wider release in April 2020
Promotional image obtained from: Brisbane International Film Festival (2019), Measure for Measure.
Retrieved from: https://biff.com.au/event/measure-for-measure/