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The Last Wave (The Criterion Collection)

4.5 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Chamberlain stars as Australian lawyer David Burton, who takes on the defense of a group of aborigines accused of killing one of their own. He suspects the victim has been killed for violating a tribal taboo, but the defendants deny any tribal association. Burton, plagued by apocalyptic visions of water, slowly realizes his own involvement with the aborigines...and their prophecies.

Special Features

  • New digital transfer supervised by the director
  • Interview with director Peter Weir

Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Chamberlain, Olivia Hamnett, David Gulpilil, Frederick Parslow, Vivean Gray
  • Directors: Peter Weir
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: November 27, 2001
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005QAPI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,469 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Last Wave (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
"What are dreams?" asks lawyer David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) of his client Chris Lee (David Gulpilil), an Australian Aborigine on trial for manslaughter.
"I will show you a dream," he responds. "A dream is a shadow...of something real."
And, when you think about it, so are films. They are literally shadows of something real - recorded on transparent strips and projected onto screens with bright lights. Watching a good film is like dreaming while awake.
Peter Weir's The Last Wave has very much the texture of a beautiful, disturbing dream. Before going Hollywood and losing his artistic teeth, he made evocative little gems like this one - full of unformed dread and pregnant with the possibility of mythic revelation.
The plot concerns a routine bar fight between some Aborigines in Sydney, Australia, that ends in the death of one of them. Lawyer David Burton is called in as a Public Defender. No big deal - except that the case seems to involve a lot more than a Saturday night celebration gone horribly awry. It may, in fact, have everything to do with an ancient prophecy marking the End of the Current Age - and a catastrophe of alarming proportions. Can Burton unravel the mystery of the prophecy - and of his own true nature - in time to avert the End of the World as we know it?
Like a dream, The Last Wave unfolds with its own kind of logic - a logic that finds only a vague counterpart to our everyday sort of concrete reasoning. It's persuasive, too, the way any powerful dream always is. It makes us believe dialogue like I quoted at the top of this review, even though people never really talk that way in real life.
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Format: DVD
David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) is a well respected lawyer and family man living and practicing in Sydney, Australia. Of Occidental origin and Anglican faith, David has never been one overly concerned with the intangible, unexplainable mysteries of life. However his predictable, concrete world has recently been disrupted by a series of vivid and disturbing dreams that have called into question the very nature of reality. Unable to sleep for fear of more night visions he buries himself in his work.

His Stepfather, Reverend Burton (Frederick Parslow), notices the change in David's demeanor during a weekend visit with the family and questions his Stepson on the matter. David confides in him with the statement, "I'm having bad dreams." As a conversation ensues David is reminded of a series of repetitive nightmares he had as a child. He would awaken in the morning to tell his parents that taxicab drivers came to him in dreams and took him on long drives during the night. That's why he was always tired in the morning.

Despite the ongoing dreams and a serious lack of sleep life must go on. He is assigned his first homicide case, he is to defend a group of aborigines in what appears to be a tribal ritual murder. The night before he is to meet his new clients he is visited by a young aborigine in another vivid dream. The unidentified man is holding a triangular rock containing some cryptic carvings and symbols. He stretches out his arm towards David as though offering him the stone.

This dream unexpectedly and dramatically takes human form the next day when he meets Chris Lee (David Gulpilil), one of the murder suspects. Chris just happens to be the aborigine in his dream.
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Our modern, rational culture floats like a small boat on a huge, dark ocean of unguessable depth. Richard Chamberlain, in perhaps his best role ever, is a lawyer specializing in the arid technicalities of corporate taxation who is, by chance [well no, not really, as it turns out] drawn into the Shamanic world of the tribal aborigines who, unknown to most people, still inhabit Sydney, Australia. Little by little, the comfortable everyday world in which Chamberlain's character lived starts to dissolve, or at least become transparent, before the unguessably ancient and very different world around it. Meanwhile nature is acting very strange, paralleling the breakdown in Chamberlain's character. A wonderful movie, full of rich metaphors and images (including the final one) that remain in the mind long after the film is over. Even the soundtrack: some aboriginal instruments, some very nervous-sounding Australian-Irish dance music, and some spare but oh-so-telling chords, can stay with you for days. What are dreams anyway and what do we buy by living in a daylight world where we cannot see them? Weir suggests some provacative and disturbing answers.
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I saw this film when it first came out in 1977. It blew my mind then. I recently saw it on television and it still blew my mind once again. Pretty good for a film that is over 20 years old. This is a fantastic film that covers a variety of genres. It's a mystery, it's a thriller, it's science fiction, it's a drama. It should appeal to anyone who like the strange and the wonderful. Richard Chamberlain is fantastic as David Burton a lawyer who finds himself representing a group of young Aborigines accused of a brutal murder. However this is not just any murder, and Chamberlain finds himself drawn into a battle between the old and the modern when he finds out that the man's death is connected to the theft of some ancient stones that depict the end of mankind. To add to his problems Chamberlain is having strange dreams, dreams in which he is surrounded by water and he is drawn to the Aborigines and the secret world of dreamtime and ancient prophesies. For David Burton is part of what is happening, he is part of something that is old as old as time, history is repeating itself and the Last Wave is about to fall... This film is packed galore with symbolism, pretty good special effects and damn good acting. David Gulpilil is great as the young Aborigine torn between the past and the present and Nanjiwarra Amagula is superb as Charlie, a pure blooded Aborigine who just might have answers to secrets spanning thousands of years. This is a thinking-person's film. It is slow moving but suspenseful and the plot is sometimes complicated but never confusing. Well worth adding to your video collection if you want something excitingly different and intellectually stimulating.
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