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Magik And Rose
Film Review - Margaret - 15/9/00

Magik and Rose - the intriguing title raises in our minds contrasted images. Vanessa Alexander, writer and director, uses contrasts powerfully throughout the film.

Contrasted characters
Magik, an unconventional name with odd spelling, really suits the character of Magik, the phoney fortune teller who at the very beginning of the film parked her house truck in the camping ground near the river and held my interest from then on. Alison Bruce is really convincing in the role and Simonde Norden served her well in the creation of her weird and wonderful outfits which with their colours and texture highlight the unconventional side of her character. Her house truck with its zany adornments can be quickly converted to fit in with our image of a gypsy fortune teller's tent.

Rose, the name of a beautiful flower, suits the attractive young married woman who works in the local pharmacy. Nicola Murphy creates a very real Rose - a young woman in strong contrast to Magik. Her obsession with her problems conceiving the child she desperately wants drives her to consult Magik who has asked her to put up a notice in the pharmacy informing the people of Hokitika that there is a fortune teller in town.

The two women could hardly look more different when they confront each other, Magik's ostentatiously unconventional outfit contrasting with Rose's trim skirt and blouse which she wears in the pharmacy. Magik tells Rose what she wants to hear - that she will soon have a child. When she is proved wrong the women meet again and find that they both have the same desire - to have a child. Contrasted as they are their common problem is a bond and they become firm friends.

There is contrast within the characters themselves. There is a strong contrast between the sham confidence of Magik the fortune teller, and the stressed timidity of Magik the mother speaking to the daughter she gave away sixteen years earlier. Rose's moods fluctuate from exhilaration to despair.

From serious to humorous scenes
There are serious scenes related to the central theme, and plenty of humour. When Magik is concerned about the image she will present to her rediscovered daughter she persuades Rose to exchange outfits - with hilarious results. Magik's solution is to advertise for a sperm donor and the interviews with the applicants are rich in humour.

If you are inhibited about hearing discussion about intercourse and conception maybe you should not go to this film. On the other hand if the reference to sperm donors makes you want to go for titillation you will be disappointed. The film is essentially about two women's desire to conceive and the amusing situations that result from this.

Set on New Zealand's West Coast
The film is set in Hokitika on New Zealand's largely undeveloped and beautiful West Coast. Though I am often drawn back to this area by its rugged beauty I was glad that Vanessa Alexander resisted the temptation to use the film as something of a tourism promotion. The setting was a rural township beside a river where people fish for whitebait, but the themes were not specific to the setting. The problems of the women could be found in any community, and the humour and fun of the Wild Foods Festival could be found in other folk festivals.

Low budget, but high value entertainment
Magik and Rose has been described as a low budget film but to me the film did not suffer as a result. There were three supporting actors, Oliver Driver as Jackson who sells snails' eggs in the camping ground, Simon Ferry as Rose's husband, and Florence Hartigan as Magik's daughter - all presenting convincing characters. The crowd scenes were shot at an actual Wild Foods Festival which greatly cut the film's costs. The musicians were the local Coalrangers. I would describe the film as being low budget but having high entertainment value.

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