Production Year: 1969
Genre: feature-length drama
B&W 35mm film
88 mins

Synopsis: A struggling writer has a life of crises: choosing between family and mistress, struggling with the Australian cultural wasteland and seeing a boyhood friend become a success overseas.

Jeannie Drynan and Mark McManus in a scene from 2000 Weeks
Jeannie Drynan and Mark McManus in a scene from 2000 Weeks
[Image source: Screensound]


Production company: Eltham Films Productions / Senior Films
Producers: David Bilcock Sr.and Patrick Ryan
Director: Tim Burstall
Script: Tim Burstall & Patrick Ryan
Original music: Don Burrows
Cinematography: Robin Copping
Editor: David Bilcock
Set builder: Lindsay Foote

Mark McManus (Will Gardiner)
Jeanie Drynan (Jacky Lewis)
Eileen Chapman (Sarah Gardiner)
David Turnbull (Noel Oakshot)
Michael Duffield (Will's father)
Bruce Anderson (Rex Stapleton)
Nicholas McCallum (young Noel)
Anne Charleston (Will's Mother)
Graeme Blundell (journalist)

Release Date: 27 March 1969

LP -
EMI SCXO-7883 (LP) 1969
45(a) (AD) Columbia. DO-8711. 1969.
LP(t) (AD) EMI. EMA 327. 1969


Although panned at the time and largely unseen ever since, Two Thousand Weeks (aka 2000 Weeks) was a major landmark for the Australian film industry. Incredibly, it was the first all-Australian feature film released to local mainstream cinemas since Chauvel's last film, Jedda, in 1958. It was also the feature debut both for its director Tim Burstall and its star, Scots-born actor Mark McManus, who later became famous in the title role of the popular Scottish detective series Taggart.

Many of the supporting cast including Graeme Blundell were members of the Australian Performing Group. The APG was based at the La Mama theatre in Melbourne, which had been founded in 1967 by Burstall's then wife Betty, after a trip to New York where they had been inspired by the "off off Broadway" independent theatre of the same name.

Naturally enough, Tim Burstall was closely involved with the APG from its earliest days. The innovative Melbourne theatre collective was also the training ground for playwright David Williamson, and Burstall's next mainstream feature, Stork was an adaptation of Williamson's play The Coming Of Stork, which had its premiere at La Mama.

Burstall made 2000 Weeks after returning from a two-year sojourn in the United States studying film-making in Hollywood and New York on a Harkness Fellowship. Working with his Eltham Films partner Patrick Ryan, they wrote a script based on comtemporary Australian themes.

They were able to raise a generous budget and convinced Senior Films (an established commercials and documentary producer) to provide studio facilities, crew and equipment. They also secured the services of Robin Copping, one of Australia's best cameramen, as cinematographer for the project. The making of the film was widely covered by the media with articles appearing in many newspapers and magazines, as well as TV coverage that used some of the 'rushes' from the film.

Regrettably, the film failed to connect with local audiences, who were apparently put off by its rather mannered 'art house' style; it was reviewed scathingly by local critics (although some overseas reviewers were more impressed) and it died commercially; according to John Baxter, this was largely due to a combination of negative word-of-mouth publicity and apathy on the part of the distrubutors, Columbia.

Ironically, Baxter blames the film's artiness for its failure, yet only five years later, another Australian film which was unequivocally 'art house' in style -- Peter Weir's Picnic At Hanging Rock -- was being hailed as the saviour of the local industry by many of the same critics who had blasted Burstall's films and others -- in spite of the fact that two of these films (Alvin and Barry MacKenzie) were the biggest commercial successes in the history of Australian film before 1975.

The harsh critical reception of 2000 Weeks affected Burstall strongly. It's clear that its failure, combined with his close contact with the APG, were instrumental in changing his approach to film-making, and led directly to the choice of his next two features, Stork and Alvin Purple, which was a hit with audiences and a breakthrough commercial success, in spite of negative reviews. It was also an important example for other film-makers like John B. Murray and Philip Adams, and helped steer them away from serious art-house features towards the more popular comedy fare of Barry MacKenzie and other so-called 'ocker' films.

A soundtrack LP featuring the music composed for the film by Don Burrows, was released on the EMI Columbia label. Now very rare and highly collectible, it is in its own right a very fine set of late Sixties Australian modern jazz, performed by the cream of Sydney's jazz and studio session scene of that time including Burrows, George Golla, Graham Lyall, Ed Gaston and John Sangster.


"2000 Weeks ... was such a critical and commercial failure that he thought his feature career had begun and ended at the same moment. He pulls a face when I mention that I have seen it recently, and says, "The thing that worries me about it when I see it now is that the writing seems so self-conscious."

2000 Weeks is the story of Will, a journalist who wants to be a writer, but whose ambitions have stalled: he is married, and is having an affair with a young woman who is about to leave for England. He finds himself in competition, sexually and professionally, with a TV journalist friend who has made a name for himself in London. England looms over the film, as the place to aspire to, and the place where decisions are made: Australia and Australian creativity is still in its thrall.

It is, undeniably, a period piece, and there's a certain awkwardness in the script: "I hadn't really learned how to direct actors," Burstall says, and despite his mixed feelings about the film, he says, "It was deeply hated here." It went down better at the Moscow Film Festival than in Sydney.

"The Brits liked it. Dilys Powell and Alexander Walker (English critics) liked it, but the local audience didn't. Its failure was difficult to deal with," Burstall says.

"You get into rather a demented state. I was in a rather odd frame of mind for about 18 months. It's a very public business, being rejected. A lot of people think that David Williamson is paranoid about critics, but they don't know what it's like." His distress was public, and he wrote about it.

His partnership with producer and collaborator Patrick Ryan was at an end. "Eltham Films finished up, and my angel, Pat Ryan, had done about 50 grand on the film."

It was time for a new strategy. "One of the consequences (of the film's failure) was that I realised who the people were that I had to get into bed with, the ones who would give me support," Burstall says. "It wasn't the ABC, The Age, it wasn't, if you like, the intelligentsia -- it was all the people in the western suburbs who watched the commercial stations and would go just for a nice night's entertainment."
- The direction of Burstall - Philippa Hawker, The Age

"The Naked Bunyip grew out of my experience in 2000 Weeks with Tim Burstall and Patrick Ryan, which was canned; it was set upon by ferocious critics, unjustly in my view, it was sort of embarrassment we had as Australians. Philip Adams and I were working on commercials and one minor documentary. He was interested in 2000 Weeks and how it fared at the box office and we decided to raise finance for another film ..."
- John B. Murray, interview with Dhav Naidu, RMIT, 1998

"Scottish actor Mark McManus is perhaps best remembered for playing the craggy title Glasgow police detective in Taggart, a gritty [Scottish] television show that ran from the mid '80s through the early '90s as a sequence of periodic three-part miniseries. Sold to over 40 countries, episodes were sometimes bundled and edited down into feature-length movies such as Cold Blood (1987). In the early '70s, McManus starred as a coal-miner in the series Sam. McManus became an actor after moving to Australia in the 1960s. He gained experience in touring productions and made his feature film debut in 2,000 Weeks (1969) [followed by Adam's Woman (1970)]. In 1970, McManus starred opposite Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger in Ned Kelly. The following year, McManus returned to the UK and joined the Royal Court Theatre and the National Theatre. McManus first played the role of Taggart in Killer (1983)."
- Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide

Trivia note: Mark McManus (who died of cancer in 1996) was the half-brother of the late Brian Connolly, former lead singer of Seventies UK glam rockers The Sweet.


All Movie Guide

Australian Cinema: Historical Perspective

Australian Performing Group (Pram Factory) Research Site

Australian Soundtracks

John Baxter
The Australian Cinema
(Pacific Books, Sydney, 1970)
ISBN 0 207 12089 7

Philippa Hawker
'The direction of Burstall'
The Age 1 June 2001



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