Peter Weir is one of the most accomplished directors not just in Australia, but also on the global scene.
Many would know his name in relation to his involvement in the Australian New Wave cinema movement or his high profile American films, such as Witness, Dead Poets Society, or The Truman Show, but back in 1977, sandwiched between Picnic At Hanging Rock and Gallipoli he released a forgotten gem.
The Last Wave is arguably the boldest movie that Weir directed with its apocalyptic tale spun through an Indigenous Australia’s connection with nature and the land, infused with both the positive and negative relationship of the ‘white’ settlers.
Ever litre of sweat, blood, and tears oozes onto the screen with harmonious energy, rippling through every crevice of the narrative, to explode in a maelstrom of emotion and torment.
At its heart, the film is deeply grounded in reality and over the course of the story, the emotional weight of our dream-like state breaks through from the human core to reveal an unstoppable force and an ambiguous ending – a message to the viewer of how we’ve lost our souls in an ethereal state, far removed from our ancestral beings.
It’s opening scene is a stark metaphor for this overview, as the familiar barren and dry Australian landscape is suddenly the victim of nature’s wrath as an unforeseen storm descends upon a small remote town, unleashing torrential rain and hail upon a school playing field.
From here, the story unfolds through the gaze of Sydney lawyer, David Burton (Richard Chamberlain), hired to defend four Indigenous Australians accused of murder, following the mysterious death of an Aboriginal man outside a pub.
In accepting the case, Burton finds himself in a world, removed from his own, opening up a parallel existence that he is inadvertently connected to through his dreams.
It is through this alternant state that pulls Burtons professional and personal life apart, and once caught in the rip, he has no option but to give in to the power of water, confront the kurdaitcha tribal elder and be spat back out into the world to confront the remnants of his life in the face of devastation.
Has he awoken, or will he be engulfed with the impending doom, to be washed away with the gulf of humanity?
The respect that Weir pays towards Indigenous Australian culture is its strength and appeal.
Casting Indigenous Australians in their respective roles, among them David Gulpilil as Chris, one of the accused, forced to give up some of his tribal secrets. Gulpilil’s performance is deeply engaging and one of the key reasons that the film is so grounded in reality, serving as a conduit for the audience to connect with the culture and in a way that leaves us questioning our own wake of life.
What does it mean to be tribal?
How can we separate our way of life and re engage with the world? Questions that are so pertinent today more than ever and casts The Last Wave at the forefront of must watch movies.
Thanks to Umbrella Entertainment, this has become possible and remastered on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD. Its Blu-Ray release boasts some insightful featurettes with Richard Chamberlain, Producer Jim McElroy and Director of Photography Russell Boyd that are incredibly engaging and further support just how integral this movie is in cinematic history and why it deserves your time.
- Saul Muerte