A Bruce Beresford film set in the 1950s celebrates themes still relevant today: female empowerment, refugees and, of course, the love of a good dress.
In the summer of 1959 in Sydney, construction had just begun on the Opera House, women’s liberation was about to rise up, European immigrants were changing the fabric of our society, and Vogue had just become a standalone magazine in Australia. Women’s fashion was booming, thanks largely to the wool industry and the popularity of couture – two years earlier Christian Dior had paraded an entire 83-piece collection in David Jones for local fashionistas.
It is in this world where the film Ladies in Black is set. It is a comedic comingof-age of sorts, centred around the fictional department store of Goode’s and the women who work there dealing with issues still relevant today – standing up for what you believe in, feminism, love and relationships and tolerance in a newly multicultural society – to the backdrop of fabulous 50s fashion. ( Vogue Australia even makes a guest appearance – the film’s producers sourced original copies of our magazine to use as props).
Ladies in Black is the cinematic adaptation of the 1993 book The Women in Black by Madeleine St John, which was turned into an award-winning musical by Tim Finn in 2015 before director Bruce Beresford adapted it for the big screen. The acclaimed two-time Oscar-nominated director went to university with St John and had wanted to make the movie for over two decades, but was delayed by funding and the writing process. Ultimately, though, says Allanah Zitserman – who coproduced with veteran Sue Milliken – the delays worked in favour of the movie, which will now be released at a time when the themes are even more relevant. “What’s exciting is that the messaging is so current,” she says. “Women are still trying to achieve full equality, and some people are still uncomfortable with new people entering their country, so the film has very powerful messages, but it’s told in a subtle and careful way. Audiences will enjoy an extraordinarily entertaining film, but also walk away with ideas that they can reflect upon and be inspired by.” Ladies in Black is in cinemas now.