Starring: Richard Chamberlain, Olivia Hamnett, David Gulpilil
Director: Peter Weir
David Burton (Chamberlain) is a lawyer in Sydney, asked to defend five aboriginals accused of murder. The killing seems to be part of a traditional ritual punishment, but as he tries to find out more, no one will talk to him. Burton starts to believe that there’s more to the case, but as he looks into it further he heads deeper down a rabbit hole that leads him to strange dreams and visions of the apocalypse. Is he losing grip on reality or is the local weather linked to his visions of things that might be to come?
Australian film went through a New Wave in the 70’s with some really great, classic films produced. Peter Weir was part of this movement, and his film Picnic At Hanging Rock preceded this film into the Australian consciousness. These New Wave films often explored the way in which the landscape dominates the Australian people, appearing as a driving force and not always a benevolent one. The land becomes a character in these films, a harsh environment that seems to have a mind or agenda of it’s own, a supernatural force sometimes. Aboriginal people often figure in films of this era, often as people who understand the rules of the land, but are often tragic figures too. (Walkabout is a great example of this)
Both of these points are true in this film. The Last Wave is an enigmatic film, and the end leaves you to think about what has occurred and what is real. It’s a film that takes you from the everyday, predominantly European life, and chips away to show the other world just underneath. It’s a film of layers and dimensions. It draws you in with a mystery and takes you on a journey to something more. Although Australia is a country that has been largely “civilised”, for those who live there, even in the cities, nature dominates. Lack of water, the threat of drought or flood are always there, and this film explores the idea that our inherited, Anglo lifestyle is sometimes flimsy.
See It If: the only Australian film you’ve seen is Crocodile Dundee, this might be a further film to watch. Mysterious and fascinating, it’s a film that will have you asking questions as the credits roll.