Fragments of War: The Story of Damien Parer (1988)
Kennedy-Miller, the Australian production company responsible for the cinematic hits Mad Max, Babe and Happy Feet, also had significant success on the small screen during the 1980’s. Starting with ‘The Dismissal’, which was about the sacking of the Whitlam government, the team went on to produce mini-series covering ‘Bodyline’, ‘The Cowra Breakout’ and ‘Vietnam’. Though the TV movie Fragments of War: The Story of Damien Parer is one of their lesser-known efforts, it is still worth a look thanks in no small part to the relaxed performance of Nicholas Eadie in the title role.
Using a retrospective of Parer’s war documentaries as a framing device, the biopic flashes back to his first meeting with future wife, and film’s narrator, Marie Cotter. After some naïve banter about the Spanish Civil War and that funny little man Hitler, the arrival of the Second World War see’s Parer sign up with the Department of Information Unit as a movie photographer. Initially filming such puff pieces as the AIF Surf Carnival at Gaza Beach, it’s not long before Parer joins the army on the frontlines of Derna, Greece and most notably, Kokoda.
Alternating between black and white and colour, Fragments of War splices together recreations of these battles with actual footage shot by Parer. The film also attempts, with varying degrees of success, to widen the narrative by including vignettes of a pragmatic seductress, a Polish refugee and a hospitable Greek family. Though these scenes, along with Parer’s visit to the home front, tend to creak a bit they do allow writer/director John Duigan to present a more rounded depiction of the famed war photographer.
Unlike many of its war-themed contemporaries, this biopic doesn’t take pot-shots at Australia’s allies, limiting its criticism to the bureaucracy of the Department of Information. The one exception provides perhaps the film’s most memorable line. Commenting on the softspoken Parer’s narration being replaced by a jingoistic American, his wife remarks “Paramount not only took our best cameraman. They also took away his voice”.
Parer’s son, also names Damien, would go on to produce such films as Shame, Father and the Orry-Kelly documentary Women He’s Undressed.
as Damien Parer
as Ken G. Hall
as Chester Wilmot