The Last Wave
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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.
- New digital transfer supervised by the director
- Interview with director Peter Weir
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Aussie soap fans will recognize Olivia Hamnett and Vivean Gray.
The disc includes a fascinating talk by legendary Australian director Peter Weir, who also gave us the haunting Picnic At Hanging Rock.
While the movie has some similarities with Weir's other Australian masterpiece, the hypnotic "Picnic at Hanging Rock," it is, for me, far more suspenseful and powerful. Its use of time-lapse photography calls to mind a third great visual film, Koyannisqatsi, and its ominous interplay of shadows and light rivals the best horror films. But the visions Burton beholds are as beautiful as they are horrible. And the journey he takes into what might be both madness and sanity force you to question the very essence of reality. A wonderfully-told story, brilliantly performed, captured by a cinematic genius.
"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. It also forcefully reminds us that there is more than one culture in the world, and that we assume we are superior simply by virtue of our technology and science, at our own peril.
In many ways, The Last Wave makes me think of Werner Herzog, who also makes deliberately paced, dream-like films about cultural clashes. If you enjoy Herzog, give this film a look.
As a final note, The Last Wave probably deserves a thoughtful DVD release with a decent commentary track. Hint, hint, Criterion...