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Reviews

The Insatiable Moon

Jeremy Clarke

RMoon.jpg

The Insatiable Moon
Directed by Rosemary Riddell 
Certificate 15, 97 minsĀ­, DVD
Something is happening in Auckland's suburb of Ponsonby. Arthur, the Second Son of God (Rawiri Paratini), has only to snap his fingers for pedestrian traffic lights to turn from green to red. On finding a $100 bill, he cheerfully rips it and gives one half each to two people in expectation that the two halves will be reunited. Which subsequently miraculously happens. Like many mentally ill people, he hears voices. In Arthur's case, the voice of God his Father. 'We get them all here,' says his down-to-earth, local boarding house manager Bob (Greg Johnson), 'Elvis, Napoleon, the Pope.' Yet Arthur seems to be different: there's nothing unusual in his borrowing $20 from the local vicar (Jason Hoyte), plenty unusual in his paying it back the next day.
Bob, meanwhile, gets shopped to a petty health and safety bureaucrat by a developer trying to buy up Bob's property which Bob has no intention of selling. A local TV reporter picks up the story, which soon becomes more controversial. One of Bob's residents, John (Mick Innes), is a convicted paedophile. We see him loitering momentarily outside the window of some small girls before running off. Elsewhere, we see Arthur praying for him. Then John hangs himself. Meanwhile, the social services worker Margaret (Sara Wiseman), obsessed with having kids with her infertile and disengaged husband, becomes intrigued and then infatuated with Arthur.
The Insatiable Moon has been rightly lauded as an independent New Zealand gem. In adapting the screenplay from his own novel, the writer and producer Mike Riddell deftly walks a magical realist path whereby Arthur could well genuinely be the Second Son of God but could equally be simply a mentally ill person who hears voices. He prays and things happen, but that could be coincidence. One scene that gives particular credibility to Arthur's divine nature, however, is when the mother of a girl John killed years ago turns up to protest at his funeral, and Arthur manages  to console her while paying tribute to the memory of his friend - a remarkable feat of justice and mercy both for Arthur and for the Riddells. It asks us the compelling question, what reason do we have to assume that the Son of God would not come as a person with mental health problems?
The film takes mental illness entirely seriously, but without solemnity. It treats its characters not as issues but as three-dimensional people with stories that are funny, poignant and endearing, and well worth hearing. 
All this is bought a life by a terrific cast, ably directed by Rosemary Riddell, who is married to Mike. With the film's charm and love of quirky characters, one is reminded of that other terrific husband and wife team film-making team from down under, Nadia Tass and David Parker (Malcolm, Mr. Reliable). The sensitively-handled, religious subject matter of The Insatiable Moon, however, marks it out as something very different in the world of international film production. If its messianic and sexual content have the potential to upset some, that probably isn't so different from the story of the First Son of God.

Directed by Rosemary Riddell 
Certificate 15, 97 minsĀ­, DVD

Something is happening in Auckland's suburb of Ponsonby. Arthur, the Second Son of God (Rawiri Paratini), has only to snap his fingers for pedestrian traffic lights to turn from green to red. On finding a $100 bill, he cheerfully rips it and gives one half each to two people in expectation that the two halves will be reunited. Which subsequently miraculously happens. Like many mentally ill people, he hears voices. In Arthur's case, the voice of God his Father. 'We get them all here,' says his down-to-earth, local boarding house manager Bob (Greg Johnson), 'Elvis, Napoleon, the Pope.' Yet Arthur seems to be different: there's nothing unusual in his borrowing $20 from the local vicar (Jason Hoyte), plenty unusual in his paying it back the next day.

Bob, meanwhile, gets shopped to a petty health and safety bureaucrat by a developer trying to buy up Bob's property which Bob has no intention of selling. A local TV reporter picks up the story, which soon becomes more controversial. One of Bob's residents, John (Mick Innes), is a convicted paedophile. We see him loitering momentarily outside the window of some small girls before running off. Elsewhere, we see Arthur praying for him. Then John hangs himself. Meanwhile, the social services worker Margaret (Sara Wiseman), obsessed with having kids with her infertile and disengaged husband, becomes intrigued and then infatuated with Arthur.

The Insatiable Moon has been rightly lauded as an independent New Zealand gem. In adapting the screenplay from his own novel, the writer and producer Mike Riddell deftly walks a magical realist path whereby Arthur could well genuinely be the Second Son of God but could equally be simply a mentally ill person who hears voices. He prays and things happen, but that could be coincidence. One scene that gives particular credibility to Arthur's divine nature, however, is when the mother of a girl John killed years ago turns up to protest at his funeral, and Arthur manages  to console her while paying tribute to the memory of his friend - a remarkable feat of justice and mercy both for Arthur and for the Riddells. It asks us the compelling question, what reason do we have to assume that the Son of God would not come as a person with mental health problems?

The film takes mental illness entirely seriously, but without solemnity. It treats its characters not as issues but as three-dimensional people with stories that are funny, poignant and endearing, and well worth hearing. 

All this is bought a life by a terrific cast, ably directed by Rosemary Riddell, who is married to Mike. With the film's charm and love of quirky characters, one is reminded of that other terrific husband and wife team film-making team from down under, Nadia Tass and David Parker (Malcolm, Mr. Reliable). The sensitively-handled, religious subject matter of The Insatiable Moon, however, marks it out as something very different in the world of international film production. If its messianic and sexual content have the potential to upset some, that probably isn't so different from the story of the First Son of God.