By Dov Kornits

We meet Melbourne-based Matthew Saville in Bondi on the eve of screenings and Q&As for his latest film, A Month Of Sundays. “I wanted to make a film that my parents wouldn’t be ashamed of,” the 50-year-old tells us. “When they saw Noise, they were very nice and were clutching for nice things to say. ‘Nice cinematography.’ My mum was just like, ‘There’s so much violence in the world.’ And she’s quite right. Don’t even get me started about when they saw The Slap [he directed a couple of the episodes of the controversial TV mini-series]. So I wanted to make a film that they would like, with no violence and no swearing.”

Appropriately, A Month Of Sundays is set in Adelaide, a town that Saville was brought up in but escaped for tertiary study. And again appropriately, the film stars another famous Adelaide ex-pat in the form of Anthony LaPaglia, who plays a grief-stricken real estate agent (Saville’s dad was a real estate agent) who forms an enigmatic relationship with Julia Blake’s retired school teacher (Saville’s mum was a teacher).

When we ask Matthew Saville to discuss films that changed his life, he tells us about a book that the question reminded him of. “Zona by Geoff Dyer. The whole book is about his favourite film, Stalker, and is just about his emotional relationship with that film. He describes the film in detail, but then he goes on these tangents about his own life. It’s a really clever book. What he says is that film is like a song; it’s not so much the film itself but when you meet it. There’s a point in your life when you’re most vulnerable to have that life changing experience. He says that it has to happen before you’re 25. And it’s not necessarily like it’s their favourite; well it is, but it’s another thing outside the film…”


“For me, the one that came at that moment was It’s A Wonderful Life. I would have been about 22. I saw it at The Astor in Melbourne; I lived around the corner from The Astor at the time. I still cry every time I see it. Everything about it. When he finds Zuzu’s petals…”

Matthew Saville left Adelaide to study graphic design. “I miscalculated things,” he admits. “The filmmakers that wowed me were the British guys that came out of the London advertising community. Directors like Ridley Scott, Adrian Lyne, Alan Parker, Hugh Hudson, and Roland Joffe made really slick looking films. I thought that’s how you become a filmmaker; you make ads and then you make a film. So how do I get into advertising? I’ll do graphic design. That was the path that they all took. But what I learned was that Melbourne in the ‘80s was very different to London in the ‘60s. So after I made my 50th Myer catalogue ad, I said, ‘That’s it, I’m out, I can’t shoot another mattress or green bath towel. It’s over.’ So I quit my job and went to film school. I just got it wrong, I just miscalculated it. When I was studying graphic design, it was at Swinburne, and the film school was there. At the time, I was in the building across the road, and they were all the cool guys, with black leather jackets, and stone pipe jeans. They drove beat up Volkswagens, and I secretly wanted to be one of them.”

Matthew Saville on the A Month Of Sundays set with Anthony LaPaglia and John Clarke
Matthew Saville on the A Month Of Sundays set with Anthony LaPaglia and John Clarke


“I saw it at The Melbourne Film Festival in 1991, so I would have been 25. That was the first Australian film that I can remember seeing that related to me. The rest were period pieces, and that was among the first Australian films that told an urban contemporary story that I could remember. I also loved Peter Weir’s stuff like The Last Wave, but I didn’t come at them until later.”


“I had pretty immature taste. The teen romps like The Breakfast Club were amazing. I love John Hughes movies, I still do. It’s funny, and I didn’t realise it until we’d done it, but I said to Josh [Thomas] and Todd [Abbott], the producer, in the edit suite on the first season of [of the TV comedy series] Please Like Me, and I thanked them because I finally got to do my John Hughes movie; it had kids in love and it was colourful. I didn’t think of it until afterwards. All the comedy that I like is actually dramatic, and it’s the way that the character responds to the drama that is funny.”

Equally adept at directing TV drama (Cloudstreet, Please Like Me, Tangle, East Of Everything) as feature films (Felony, Noise), Matthew Saville reckons that he approaches both mediums in the same way. “The Italian cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, said that the televisions are getting bigger and the cinema screens are getting smaller. The Venn diagram circles are closer together. If you’re making a film or a television show, the cameras are the same, and the lenses are the same. I always use an Arri Alexa and Cooke Primes [lenses], and it doesn’t matter if it’s a TV show or a film. The lights are the same, the actors are the same, and the format is the same now. You’re not constrained to 4:3 aspect ratio any more on TV. A Month Of Sundays is structured to have acts, but it’s something that you don’t want the audience to be conscious of. Now that I’ve become a director and I’ve been on enough sets, I’ve lost this thing that I had in my naivety, which I really miss, of thinking that a film has to be absolutely amazing, a masterpiece, to transport me the way that a lot of films used to because I sit there and I reverse engineer them, working out where the lights would be, rather than sitting there and enjoying it.”

And what’s the last film to transport him?


“That got me in. I stopped thinking about where they put the lights. You were totally in that world and with a fascinating character. J.C. Chandor doesn’t miss a trick, The Redford film [All Is Lost] is brilliant. All of his films are completely different. Margin Call, his first film, is completely different. Every film could be done by a different filmmaker, and it’s the story that is important to how he makes the film. I’m a bit like that; I like to zig and zag a bit. Do I prefer working in TV or film, comedy or drama? I get creatively restless actually. Because I’ve done three series of Please Like Me, I was hankering to do a drama. I was sick of the jokes.”

A Month Of Sundays is released in cinemas on April 28.

  • Rick Selway
    Rick Selway
    27 April 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Matthew well done on your career so far. I’m .looking forward to seeing this your latest masterpiece. I do remember those days from Glenelg

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