Written on the Wind

Director: Douglas Sirk's

(USA| 1956. Colour. 99 mins.)

Director Douglas Sirk’s 1956 classic is the last word in delirious Texan oil-dynasty melodramas. The Hedleys are so infected by privilege, patriarchal indulgence and ennui that they’re on the brink of extinction: tycoon Robert Keith, no longer able to cope with his petulant nymphomaniac daughter (Dorothy Malone) and reckless playboy son (Robert Stack), turns to lifelong family friend and employee Rock Hudson for help in keeping them on the straight and narrow. Trouble is, Malone—who’s had her eye on Rock since childhood— jealously reckons he harbours a secret passion for Stack’s designer wife, Lauren Bacall, and tells Stack so, putting friendship, marriage and lives in jeopardy. Promiscuity, impotence, alcoholism, adultery, wilful cruelty, revenge: all human life is here. But Sirk’s ultra-stylish film transcends trash; it’s a lurid yet meticulous dissection of the American Dream. Colour, composition, movement, music and performance lift the story way beyond mere soap into genuinely operatic territory.

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