My review of Wentworth Prison
So Wentworth Prison is a remake of the original Australian series Prisoner Cell Block H. Now Prisoner Cell Block H was hardcore. The female Governor was completely insane and locked in a battle of wits with he whole of the women inmates and especially their leader.
I remember tense scenes in the industrial sewing room and scary suggestions of things done with hot irons &steaming presses.
Frances Cormack from the excellent Australian series Underbelly takes the part of the prisoner who is a matriarch ruler of the prison in the re-make. The bull female or alpha female as psychologists would say. Think Godfather gangster. Just: Godmother. it doesn’t have the same ring to it does it? Sounds more christening than criminal.
However the matriarch gangster does not return immediately, we see her arrival cleverly previewed just with touches of hand and hair in preparation. Like the Queen was coming.
Instead the action focuses on our heroine, Bea, a battered and cruelly abused wife. By a violent and abusive husband. We see black and white flash backs intermittently throughout.
Of Bea somehow or another having managed to tape up her husband with big grey tape and stick him in the front seat of the car in the garage. Whilst feeding the exhaust pipe into the car then shutting the door on him as the grey black smoke fumes filled the car.
Unfortunately (or not) this plan in interrupted by Bea’s daughter banging hysterically on the corrugated automatic folding garage door. weeping and furious, the daughter bangs and shouts, refusing to go away.
Weeping, sobbing & repentant, Bea gives in and lifts up the garage door. After having released her husband from the car. She tells her daughter some ridiculous story. Like the daughter didn’t know.
Furious husband attacks Bea dragging her head back by her hair and threatens her if she tells. Because that would be an uncool look for him.
But then the Police come back. They have figured out that Hubby couldn’t have taped himself up. Goodbye Mommy.
Cue crying daughter left with Hubby. oops.
So this is how Bea is transported to Jail & arrives with her pre-Raphaelite golden red locks and pensive painting beautiful face.
Bea is swiftly catapulted into a battle strewn, warring hell. Composed of Frankie: (the other main gangsteress on the cell block & her gang) versus the matriarch (& her gang) and the women versus the prison.
Frankie has already marked the new girl’s cell as her territory by frolicking in it with her lover. Especially just before Bea opens the door.
Frankie, we are told, or rather Bea is told, must be obeyed:
“Just do what she says!”
Several frightened looking women mumble earnestly before hurrying away.
Frankie rules by cheery threats, a psychotic and large bodyguard and flexing her biceps in a minimalistic yet boyish fashion in a spotless white vest and tattoos. That is until The Return of the Man. or rather Woman. In the fearsome gangster Godmother of the Cell block.
Then the warring factions: Frankie & her gang & the Godmother and hers line up against each other in the prison yard.Things start to go slo-mo. We see a plethora of mini-handled Stanley knives appear in women’s hands.
I thought the slow motion shift as if low grinding of gears as the shapes of women shifted towards fight was kind of overdone perhaps. Whilst impressive at the time, as it dragged i half expected them to play the sound of elephants trumpeting or a quick flash of a wildlife film, Rhinos Fight to the Death.
Yes, we geddit, they are gonna fight. Women fight too. Who knew?
A point abut the music. As a one man jury I’m out. I try to abstain from judgement the first time. A first episode.
However i was aware of the singing Indie music towards the end and it almost became cloying and corny. (please no-i want to like Wentworth)
Thing is, Prisoner Cell Block H, the original had this crazy, corny outro music:
‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.’ Because it sounded almost too pretty. But it worked. & the music made the atmosphere of the Cell block even more sinister. Singing about flowers in a plaintive wail.
As of yet, I’m not sure if the re-make has the balance right with the music. The rest of the setting of day to day with sudden, severe & violent does work so far.
Bea’s shock at being transported so rapidly into ever confusing, frightening & claustrophobic & well prison-like surroundings with barely any explanatory word said along the way is absolutely palpable.
You really think Bea is going to have a physical panic attack in total fear. We experience her inner turmoil through the shots of increasingly smaller & darker places, bright huge overhead harsh lights, expanses of concrete, tiny dark cell. & so on. We are experiencing the prison from Bea’s point of view.
Bea is our mute storyteller. The drama is her story.
& Bea still hasn’t been able to phone her daughter. & the mad matriarch is back and Bea has dared to defy her.
I can see that the flashbacks might start to get annoying. If they continue. I wonder if we will get each woman’s story with accompanying flashbacks. Might do.
So far there has been one slightly icky session where the women, the good women, have questioned Bea about her “abusive husband”. That seemed a little unlikely so soon. In the plot.
Cue the women encouraging Bea to fight her case. We shall see. So far Wentworth Prison is atmospheric and very dramatic if a bit melodramatic, in parts. It’s fresh and different. What’s not to like?
(gangster speak a’ la Robert De Niro)