Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Bruce Beresford (director), Sue Milliken and Bruce Beresford (screenwriters), Ladies in Black (2018)

Ladies in Black (2018) is a film set in Sydney in 1959 that looks appreciatively at the social changes in Australia brought by emerging trends towards female emancipation and the cultural impact of the presence of Eastern European refugees and migrants brought by the post-war mass immigration programme. 

Directed by Bruce Beresford, the film was based on the novel Women in Black (1993) written by his friend Madeleine St John and adapted to the screen by Sue Milliken and Bruce Beresford.  This period piece evokes life in Australia at the end of the 1950s by telling the story of four shop assistants (Lisa, Fay, Patty and Magda) in the ladies apparel section of a fictional department store, Goodes, which would have been based on the upmarket store David Jones.  

It is a film about gentle adjustments and gradual cultural shifts.  Mainstream Australians were learning to accept and appreciate the ethnically and culturally diverse people in their midst.  Mild xenophobia and prejudice were gradually displaced by acceptance, genuine interest and appreciation.  Similarly, there were gentle adjustments and gradual cultural shifts towards the greater emancipation of women who were finding or seeking greater opportunities for self-expression, for a satisfying marriage and home life, as well as for greater educational, career and business opportunities.  Men were coming around to accepting these changes, and women were coming around to raising their expectations and broadening their horizons. 

These gentle adjustments and cultural shifts are exemplified in a coming-of-age story about a sixteen year old girl who seeks to be appreciated as a woman and whose personal development shows her to be the beneficiary of the cultural influences of these Eastern Europeans and of the increased opportunities for women at that time. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2021 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Ladies in Black meaning, Ladies in Black themes, Ladies in Black analysis, Ladies in Black notes