In upper-class white society, we meet the owner of The Ballarat Times: an upscale Englishwoman named Belle Roberts (Alyssa Sutherland), who approaches Shing to share plans to launch a Chinese publication. Belle is one of many very influential and hardy female figures, including the ruthless and powerful Cheung Lei (Mabel Li) - an intimidating figure in the Chinese community.- and young Aboriginal stalker Hattie (Leonie Whyman). It would be interesting to read a historian's take on Indigenous Stalkers, given the consensus that this was a male dominated role.
There is a tension between the role of a playwright's desire to portray historically neglected people who are strong and independent characters, while simultaneously acknowledging that they are caught up in the maelstrom and the injustices of the time - in this case an extremely misogynistic colonial society under the domination of white males. Jennifer Kent succeeded perfectly in The Nightingale by delivering a searing rage and passion within a fully-dimensional female protagonist, an Irish inmate drawn to revenge by a shocking injustice, balancing agency drama with uninhibited social commentary. compromise.
New Gold Mountain is a more sanitized take on history: not politically sharp or confrontational, and without much interest in making explicit statements on topics like sexism and racism. Some of the characters were inspired by historical figures but this is not a series that goes for realism per se; the tone is dramatic rather than a class manual. Everything takes place on a scenic, at times almost histrionic level - evident in the amplified style of the performances, Caitlin Yeo's powerful a nd heavily used, and the intensely sculpted visuals of the series.
In press notes, Chen discussed infusing the series with Asian cinematic sensibility, " drawing on Chinese cinema formalism and symmetrical framing. "The stunning cinematography by Matt Temple also contains elements of Frederick McCubbin's paintings which depict human subjects as relatively small in the context of environmental aspects, but not entirely helpless or completely subject to the vagaries of nature.
Writers resort to familiar devices to open up the access to their narrative - most obviously the central MacGuffin, in the form of a murder mystery: an evergreen narrative premise. There are also particular moments of dramatic footage that is a bit bland, or at least a bit rote, like an opening scene featuring a well-dressed woman walking near a body of water - a technique "that never fails to look dramatic" mastered by Jane Campion, who added a piano to start. The detailed New Gold Mountain storyline is peppered with interesting moments, though no narrative thread ever reaches its full potential.
And yet: at the end of each episode I was delighted to return to this world, imagining exploring the settings on my own - walking past muddy concessions with gold diggers fiery, putting my head in tents, trying to avoid the latrines. Chen, whose work includes the comedy Homecoming Queens (one of my Favorite Australian TV Shows of 2018 ), does a wonderful job building the show in space, generously using the 'walk and talk' technique popularized by Aaron Sorkin and The West Wing. Here, it is not only an interesting way to stage the dialogue of the exchanges, but has the added benefit of showing the details of the period and the lush Australian locations.
Nobody has made this country the equivalentent from There will still be blood , that brilliantly American portrait of great fortune at the expense of moral bankruptcy. But New Gold Mountain and the aforementioned movies ( Goldstone and The Furnace ) is geared towards using gold and other natural resources as material for national parables - stepping stones for discussion of wealth, greed, power, politics and the apocalyptic human tendency to extract resources from the ground. In an information overloaded world, where we tend to assume that every story worth telling has already been told, Chen's series reminds us that thisThis is far from true: history and culture, as always, are all about perspective.