View Full Version : The Last Wave

David Guyatt
11-28-2015, 09:15 PM
In the early 1980's I was fortunate enough to watch a really very intriguing film that has always reverberated with me. It is set in Sydney, Australia and features the beliefs and dream time of Aboriginals. It's called "The Last Wave".

Quite by accident I came acorrs it again in the last week and watched it again (the only available sources I'm aware of are ALLUC and Youtube) and I highly recommend it. Very Jungian and occult in principle.


Magda Hassan
11-29-2015, 11:53 AM
Oh, boy, what a blast from the past! Here are a couple of interesting articles about the film.

While some people feel there is no culture in Australia, and on one level I wouldn’t disagree with them, it is a cultural desert, there also exists a people with a continuous culture of 60,000 years. There are hundreds of languages (though many sadly endangered and extinct) and thousands of stories and dances and songs. While some individuals and communities are truly broken from their encounters with white men and their culture there is an amazing connection on all those levels.

"It doesn't take any imagination at all to feel awed"

PETER WEIR Interviewed by Judith M. Kass Peter Weir was interviewed by Judith M. Kass in New York City on January 8, 1979, in connection with the U.S. opening of his new film The Last Wave. The Last Wave concerns a lawyer, played by Richard Chamberlain, who defends five aborigines accused of killing a sixth in Sydney, Australia. Through them Chamberlain comes in contact with what the aborigines call "dream time" and his own involvement with their myths.

Richard Chamberlain is principally known in this country as the star of the TV series Dr. Kildare. What is not so widely known is that after becoming a star he left the U.S. to learn how to act. Why did you choose him for The Last Wave?
I thought he'd always been poorly photographed in white light. When I think back to Kildare I think of those hot lights and I thought he'd never been photographed at night. I don't mean that literally, but there was something in his face, there was some alien quality, and in my story my character had that quality. I had one actor in Australia I'd thought of using, but he was unavailable. Also, we couldn't raise all the money in Australia and Chamberlain's name occurred to somebody and I remembered that face, those eyes in particular.
Gulpilil, the young aboriginal star, is familiar to American audiences as the star of Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout. How did you come to use him?
It's very difficult to tell you about Gulipilil. I know very little about the man. He's enigmatic; he's an actor, a dancer, a musician. He's a tribal man, initiated in the tribal ways, found by Roeg at a very early age and put into an international movie. Roeg took him on publicity trips to Europe and the States. He has a foot in both cultures. It's an enormous strain on the man. In movies sometimes you can draw on that. And my film is very much about... In his instance in the story, as one of the men accused of manslaughter, he is torn between two cultures. I didn't get the performance out of him, the situation did. The man is torn, and he has broken his tribal law by moving to the city, by marrying a black girl who is not tribal. He goes home, they still accept him in his tribal area, but he's under enormous tension. It's impossible to know what tension he's under.
He speaks English well and I talked with him. You can have a conversation about anything, music, and then suddenly, he'll have a moment, as I experienced. It was one of the things that got me on to the movie. He'll say something in English that makes no sense. This is one of the things that drew me to write a part for him. I'd never written a part for a person. It's dangerous: you might not be able to get the person. I'd used him in a TV episode in a very straightforward part. He was being persecuted by a white overseer in a historical series, and we were chatting in a bar one night after work and he said some things about his family and then suddenly he said some English sentence. It was something like "You see my father and I and that's why because the moon isn't." And I said, "What's that mean - your father and I and the moon isn't?" And he repeated it. I said, "David, I don't understand." And he said it again. This was ridiculous - we'd been talking. I said "What are you talking about?" So he rearranged the sentence. It still made no sense. Well, I had to leave it, otherwise we couldn't continue the conversation. And I thought about it that night and the next morning and suddenly I realized what it was. That he was talking about another perception. He was talking about an experience for which there are no words. He'd seen something in another way. That was a breakthrough for me, firstly in my writing of the screenplay, and secondly in my future conversations with him, because then I would look out for these moments or I would provoke them.

What does it mean to be a tribal aborigine in Australia today?
The problems are with the youth. We've got the sophisticated technology and so forth - the transistors, music, the draw of the cities. So the problem for tribal people is how to bring their young people back into their culture, how to get them to be interested in initiation ceremonies, how to stop them drifting to the cities. It's a case of how long they can continue to be a tribal people in a sophisticated Western country.

How did you find Nanjiwarra Amagula, who plays Charlie, and who is actually the leader of the aboriginal tribe?
He's actually a clan leader. He'd never made a film, nor will he make one again. Not because of my experience, but because he saw this as a one-time thing. He would do it for certain reasons. To get him I had to go to, in Sydney, the Aboriginal Cultural Foundation director, a man called Lance Bennett, who subsequently became a friend. He was highly suspicious of a feature filmmaker delving into tribal cultural matters. It's all very well to photograph a tribal man with spears against Ayres Rock, but another to delve into the system of perception, which I wanted to. So he screened me, he read my draft screenplay, and finally he passed me and he said, "OK. I'll help you." He said, "There's only one man who can play your Charlie, one man who has enough wisdom, enough breadth, enough understanding, not just to come into the city but to make a feature film. It's obviously a sophisticated Western process." He said, "I'll tell him about this on the radio-telephone on his island in the Gulf of Carpentaria - Groote Island. He may or may not see you." He did see me and we sat all day at Fanny Bay in Darwin, where he was rehearsing some dancers.

Rehearsing dancers - what does he do?
As a tribal elder he's a magistrate; he sits with a visiting European magistrate to try petty crime, which is what they cope with there - theft, drunkenness, etc. He speaks the language with the accused and he advises the European magistrate on sentencing. He officiates at tribal ceremonies, which are considerable. For instance, during filming he had to hurry home at one point to bury a child who couldn't be buried until he was present. He's a member of the Northern Lands Council, which is coping with the uranium question. He's a very important, busy man. So a film is something that could have appeared frivolous.

Our meeting, then. You know, they had no concept of acting. They don't have acting. It's the real thing. I sat with him on the beach and my first instinct was to tell him all about it. And I started to, and stopped because I could sense that it was the wrong thing to do and that he only wanted to do it has way. So we sat all day without saying a word. At the end of the day he said, "Can I bring my wife with me to make this film?" So he'd made this decision throughout that day in his own way, but it certainly wasn't this idiotic language that we use. He sensed that it was right to do and that I was right to do it, I think. We then met that evening with Lance Bennett, who remained the go-between and who could speak his language. We discussed the concepts of the film and he asked me to place certain points within the film.
Did you have to treat the aboriginal actors differently in any way from the non-aboriginal actors? What did it involve?
Absolutely. It varied. With Gulpilil I had to be very careful of his ability to mimic a direction. He had considerable experience, far more than the others, and I could say to him... For example, the scene where he came to dinner with the old man, Charlie, and he walks up to the door and says, "Hi. This is Charlie." Something simple. We rehearsed it and it was flat. I said, "David, what's the matter, you're not firing. What's wrong?" he said, "What do you mean? What do you want me to do? I'm saying `Hi. This is Charlie.'" We had to act it out in pantomime and destroy the language. I said, "This is a king you're bringing, a man of great power. You're bringing Nanjiwarra to the door. And when you say `Hi, this is Charlie', you don't just mean that." And I walked through it and we acted it out and we touched each other. A great amount of touching, pushing, prodding, through other means of communication like that. And he suddenly said, "Oh! I see, I see!" `Hi. This is Charlie.' Let's do the take." Straightaway. And he just said the same line, the same movements, full of life. Language is secondary as communication.

Did they influence the script and did you want them to?
I don't know if I wanted them to. I guess you could say yes. I didn't say to them "Please I've only got an outline. Help me." I wanted to approach them as equals, which is difficult to do with the white man's burden and given the sad history of contact with these people. But I had to approach them and I used many ways. That was just one of them.

How did you decide on the subject matter?
It just arose. A series of connecting things, moments, that conversation with Gulpilil that I couldn't understand. Something that happened before that. I'd had a premonition. I'd never had anything like that in my life. I don't consider myself psychic. I was on holiday in Tunisia; I'd come down from London. I'd always loved Roman or Greek ruins - not the way they used to be, I just liked the way they'd fallen down; but I kind of liked classical structure. We were driving to Duga, this inland city in Tunisia, Roman city, looks like Pompeii, and we stopped the car to exercise a little and everyone was picking up bits of marble by the roadside in the fields. The driver hit the horn and we were heading back to the car and I had this feeling which lasted some seconds, that I was going to find something. I was picking up bits of stone and I saw on a stone these three parallel lines and I picked that stone up. In fact it was a hand, a fist, and the lines were between fingers. It resisted a little bit, then burst up through the ploughed field and there was this head, the head of a child, broken off at the neck and at the wrist. It had been holding something on its head, or a sword or something. The nose was gone, the lips and so on, but I can't tell you what that was like. I smuggled it out and took it home and had it dated and put it on my desk. I wondered about the head; why did I know I was going to find it? Subsequently I told people about it, and they'd say, "Oh, that happens to you - it's you." And I thought, What if a lawyer had found it - that's more interesting. And at some stage from that I thought, What if a lawyer dreamt of some evidence, what if he found some evidence through a premonition? Someone trained to think precisely on one hand; on the other, the facts, dreaming, dream some evidence. I told Gulpilil about this and we discussed things and gradually the forces began to come together. I did a lot of reading during that period - Casteneda and the Old Testament, strangely different influences. Thor Heyerdahl's theories, Velikovsky - and somehow these clues began to form a pattern. There was a new way to look at tribal people.

Is there really an ancient aboriginal cave under the city? Is that a real location in Sydney?
No, my location was up the coast about 15 miles. But there are rivers under Sydney; there are things buried under Sydney.

Are the aboriginal legends in the film authentic?
Everything passed through the hands of the tribal aborigines we used. The Sydney people are dead - white contact destroyed them. Around the city they've left signs and symbols, some paintings, carvings in national parks; they're now protected. Nobody knows what they mean unless there's obvious hunting in the picture. We took the Groote Island people to look at them. And Nanji just said "Poor fellows." So therefore, we created a fictional situation. The only thing was, Nanji insisted that there are still the Sydney people there, but they're spirits and their spirits exist at sacred sites and protect sacred sites, so if there's a sacred site under Sydney he said, "This is true, your script is true. The spirits will be there, therefore I cannot be human." That was one change because in my story Charlie was human, initially. He pointed out that that was impossible. But he could be a spirit that took on human form; this is quite possible.

In The Last Wave a white man seeks spiritual assistance from a black. Was it your intention to show that whites can learn from blacks if they take the trouble?
I don't think so. You can't come in contact with them. I paid a million dollars to spend six weeks with them, when it gets down to it. Who could do that? They're in the North, a long way away. There are a few books, but I haven't been lucky enough to find anything interesting. They're either academic on the one hand or quasi-poetic on the other, and I didn't set out to preach in the film. But something to think about, something I think about a lot, is the fact that I, with a basically Scottish-Irish-English background, have lost my past. I have no past. I'm nobody. I ask my parents who these people are in the photograph album and they can't remember. Nobody knows. I have no culture. I'm a European who lives in Australia. I'm an Australian in a sense, but I've lost something. And that's what I made a film about.

Part of the film seems to be about the white man's guilt over the destruction of the aboriginal culture.
It's part of the story but by no means the most significant. The loss of dream time on our side is much more interesting.

What do the aborigines mean by dream time?
It's a system of perception. I first learned about it as if it were some kind of mythology. Like Grimm's fairy tales: a collection of aboriginal dream time legends: how the rivers were formed, where the sun came from. In fact, I didn't like anything I read. They always seemed cute in English, or coy. "The great great bull was in the sky and he hit the wombat on the head and that's how the sun came." I just didn't like it. It was only when I talked to tribal people, not only about that but about other things, that an idea of dream time, as a way of perceiving, as another perception, started to come to me. The dream time wasn't something in the past, but was a continuing thing. It is, in fact, another time, and people of great power can step into it and step back into our time. Now, how or what that means, I only touched on.

The film is also about natural phenomena gone awry. A rain of frogs or rain coming through a car radio. Why did you do that?
I suppose I've been shaving some mornings and I've watched water coming out of the tap and I've thought, It seems to be under control. What if I couldn't turn it off, and no plumber could? We think we have nature under control. Disasters always happen in Third World countries; in my part of the world we're OK because we've organized things. We wouldn't permit a cyclone to hit the city. It seems to me we've lost touch with the fear of nature. More than the respect for it, because there are too many poems written about the respect for nature. To be absolutely dead scared. Tonight, when we leave this building and there's a special kind of wind blowing. If that wind is howling with a voice like the voice of a person, a four-year-old child might say to us, "The wind's talking to us," and we'll say ,"No it isn't, don't be silly. It's just howling around those wires." Organize his imagination, everything's under control. It's just part of something we've lost touch with, another way of seeing the world. It was part of a balance of things, a balance within us, and we've eliminated it since the Industrial Revolution and it's forcing its way back. People makes movies about it, write books about it. Often they're junk. Children are born with it, with this balance. We teach it out, but it'll find its way back with some of us.

What is the significance of the wave itself?
It's a common dream amongst peoples throughout all time. The water rising up, the last high tide. It's mentioned in the Bible, which is a type of journalism. It's happened before; people have chosen to forget it. It's the Velikovsky collective amnesia, which is used to forget certain catastrophes.

It seems that in your film primeval forces are gaining control over a part of the world that was previously considered civilized.
We, 40,000,000 of us, live hard along the coasts. We're mostly in the cities on the edge of this vast continent. It's just there to be seen if you live there. It affects you even if you're not conscious of it - that great emptiness. You can travel and see nature as it was before the history of man, and you can be days driving from a hamburger joint or something. It doesn't take any imagination at all to feel awed.

You've been quoted as saying, "It takes the littlest thing to reveal the chaos underneath." What is there under Richard Chamberlain's suburban life? It seems happy and tranquil.
Things not thought through, things suppressed. The natural forces that have been cemented over and the bloodstains of the corpse are seeping through for some people. It's there and we just don't choose to see it.

Richard Chamberlain learns of a previous civilization that was destroyed by a great wave. He was part of that civilization. Are we meant to believe that he was an aborigine in a previous life, or that he is psychically in tune with the aborigines and that's why he's chosen to be their lawyer?
Here we have two men: one white, one black; one tribal aboriginal, one highly sophisticated Western civilized man. Both fine men. One of them has material wealth; one has spiritual wealth. I wanted my lawyer, with his material wealth, with his humanitarian principles, to, firstly, glimpse with his mind that there was another lost dream, or spiritual life, and then to touch it. I thought, How can he touch it? I'll have him go back down, go back down - that's what I kept saying in my mind. How can he go back down? I thought, Go back down underneath the city, down through the sewer, through the filth, down to the dirt, down to his own lost spiritual life - treated with some logic, some realistic elements. It's not a fantasy. I wanted to represent it that way. So he goes back down, and there, within the ground below - we've mentioned in the film that his background is South American, he came from South America as a child - and there he touches his own lost spiritual life, his own dreaming. In a sense he's given a gift by the aborigines. There are symbols and signs from some other life, or South American history - who knows what? He can't cope with it. He can't handle that kind of knowledge. I don't think he could.

Picnic at Hanging Rock, your previous film, is about the mysterious - and historically real - disappearance of three girls and a teacher during a school picnic in 1900. While not overly occult, it is mysterious: two of the girls and the teacher are never found, all the watches stop at noon, and so forth. What is the significance of the red cloud that Edith says she saw?
Something that was always a pattern of geological disturbances. A lot of things were written about, or collected by Charles Ford, who wrote a book about phenomena around the world from the last century and early in this century. Red clouds were consistently represented in reports from Peru and elsewhere, coinciding with other mysterious happenings, showers of stones, etc. For me, this unsolved mystery... Nor is the story necessarily true. This is one of the most intriguing things. The author of the book [Joan Lindsay] from which the film is taken says it may be true. Strange thing to say. She wrote the book in her sixties. She's no publicist; she's a very shy, aristocratic, interesting woman. When I met her the agent warned me not to ask the truth of the matter - which I did immediately. She said, "Never ask me again." When the film was released and there was massive press contact with her, she asked, "Should I tell them?" I said, "Keep your secret. It's not the point." People disappear all the time. There are no newspaper records, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. For me, it was partly to do with natural phenomena.

In The Last Wave and Picnic at Hanging Rock you're concerned with the occult and the mysterious. Is your first feature, The Cars That Ate Paris, similarly concerned with the occult and the mysterious?
I don't think those things are occult and mysterious - I think they're natural. When people ask me why I always make films about the occult, I say... I don't mean to be clever about it but - maybe it makes me eccentric - I think these things were natural. Maybe they're not now, but we've only chosen to see the world in a certain way; it's by common agreement these things are so. It's why we laugh at foreign tribes who paint their noses red or something. They laugh at us because we wear sunglasses. It's what we all agree upon. It seems a reasonable thing to say we've agreed on the world, but it also therefore seems reasonable to say that it's not necessarily that way.
As for The Cars That Ate Paris, it was retitled The Cars That Ate People in the States, and for anyone in the Carolinas who was unfortunate enough to see this recut version of the film, well, it was a grotesque monster of a film. It was an allegory using the B picture form - hence the title, which was like The Monster That Ate New York, or whatever. It was about a bunch of kids who had cars. They were living in a town that lived off motorcar accidents: they trapped cars by night. Eventually the young Frankensteins rose up and decorated their cars one night with mouths and sharks' teeth, and they attacked the town. But the allegorical element was eliminated the way the U.S. distributor cut it, and the picture came out as senseless violence. It was a horrible film.

What would you like your audiences to know about your films?
I remember a quote of Bruce Springsteen's in Rolling Stone. He said, "I like to give my audiences something money can't buy." So I'd like them to walk out with much more than the $4.00 or whatever it cost.

An Authentic Dreamtime: David Gulpilil and The Last Wave (Peter Weir, 1977) Lisa French (http://sensesofcinema.com/author/lisa-french/)
July 2015
Special Dossier: Focus on David Gulpilil at MIFF 2015 (http://sensesofcinema.com/category/special-dossier-focus-on-david-gulpilil-at-miff-2015-special-dossiers/)
Issue 75 (http://sensesofcinema.com/issues/issue-75/)

This is a big, true story of my people… (David Gulpilil, Ten Canoes)
Over more than thirty years, actor, dancer, musician and visual artist David Gulpilil has been deeply engaged in telling the “big, true” stories of his people. When Peter Weir made The Last Wave in 1977, the process of working with Gulpilil and other Indigenous actors opened a door to a new way of seeing the world. They created what Gulpilil himself has described as a film that was not only “very important for his people”, but also one which he said was “the first film to authentically describe Aboriginal ‘Dreamtime’ mythology”. (1)
The Last Wave is significant as a major film of the 1970s Australian film renaissance, a critically well-received film from a leading director of that period, and also, a marker film in the career of David Gulpilil. At 24, he had been acting in Australian film and television for six years since his debut in Nicholas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971 UK/Australia). The Last Wave was a key film in a journey that was to become both his life’s work, and his most important contribution to Australian cinema: to engage in a dialogue with Australian auteurs, audiences and Indigenous people to communicate Aboriginal identity, culture, values and history.
I say this not to downplay his enormous talent as one of Australia’s most significant and respected actors, but to identify the way in which he has used that talent for his people, the land he loves, and an agenda to communicate Aboriginal knowledge. He has been centrally preoccupied with engaging in a dialogue that communicates that we are ‘all one red blood’ (2) – which is not only to say that we are all human, but also that we are interconnected and share a mutual history.
Peter Weir has said that he wrote the role of Chris Lee specifically for Gulpilil (with Tony Morphett), and that it was inspired by interchanges with him. Weir has recalled an illogical conversation that ‘drew’ him ‘to write a part for Gulpilil. I’d never written a part for a person. It’s dangerous: you might not be able to get the person’. (3) An intercultural exchange informed Weir’s understandings, as he has recalled:

… we were chatting in a bar one night after work and he said some things about his family and then suddenly he said some English sentence. It was something like, “You see my father and I and that’s why because the moon isn’t.” And I said, “What’s that mean – your father and I and the moon isn’t?” And he repeated it. I said, “David, I don’t understand.” And he said it again. This was ridiculous – we’d been talking. I said “What are you talking about?” So he rearranged the sentence. It still made no sense. Well, I had to leave it, otherwise we couldn’t continue the conversation. And I thought about it that night and the next morning and suddenly I realized what it was. That he was talking about another perception. He was talking about an experience for which there is no words. He’d seen something in another way. (4)
The conversation between the two men, and later with Amugula Nadjiwarra (who played Charlie), possibly delivered the ‘authenticity’ Gulpilil claimed the film achieved in relation to the Dreamtime. Gulpilil led Weir to understand something about Aboriginal culture that came to form the basis of the film. The Dreamtime is non-linear, the past, present and future all happen simultaneously, and this is the state which audiences experience in Weir’s film. As I have written elsewhere, Gulpilil has spent his career in dialogue with auteurs, sharing Indigenous knowledge, (5) and this is his central project, which he communicates not just with his interactions with the filmmakers, but through his performance.
Weir has observed that ‘certain scenes in the film were all his [Gulpilil’s], such as those about getting messages from his family through a twitch in his arm — those were either added by Gulpilil or by Nadjiwarra’. (6) An example of this occurs in a scene early in the film at the home of lawyer David Burton. Lee offers that there are other ways of being in the world and understanding it, or of “knowing things”). He illustrates this by pinching the skin on his arm and telling Burton that he will have a bodily reaction (a twitch), should his family need to call him. Moving the overhead light without taking his intense gaze off Burton, he says that a dream is just ‘a shadow of something real’, expressing the belief that dreams are reality from an Aboriginal perspective. Through this, the film’s story emphasizes Gulpilil’s message that we need to think outside our own perceptual schema — he shares Indigenous knowledge that underscores the idea that European ways of thinking do not explain all phenomena. Gulpilil uses his body, his gaze, and silence in his performance to communicate his Aboriginal perspective. (7)
http://sensesofcinema.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/last-wave-gulpili-.jpg (http://sensesofcinema.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/last-wave-gulpili-.jpg)
Weir has said that his favorite scene is the dinner sequence early in the film; according to him, ‘Nadjiwarra put in all the lines about the law and the law being more important than the man, and that is really the heart of the film’. (8) For Aboriginal people the Dreamtime or creation period was when the laws were set down and cultural custom established. So the identification of the importance of law as being at the ‘heart’ of the film, locates the conversation Weir was having with his Indigenous collaborators as being about the paramount importance of culture and custom. It may explain how the film works towards the ‘authentic’ depiction of Aboriginal mythology that Gulpilil identified. The Dreamtime is repeatedly referenced through the motif of the talisman, an artifact that has a face denoting the spirit of the Dreamtime. Burton sees the talisman in his dreams, and it appears as part of the court case. Lee (Gulpilil) tells Burton that he is in trouble because he does not know what dreams are any more. He is in strife because he has lost sight of the law, and his connection to spirituality and culture.
As Gulpilil has observed of himself, he is a cultural mediator: ‘I’m a true Aborigine, a true cultural man … I believe in education and people writing stories about me so everyone can learn about us’, (9) and The Last Wave exemplifies this facilitation. We are left with an insight into the Dreamtime as an irrefutable source of energy – which Weir metaphorically signifies from the film’s opening through the surreal representation of the weather. As film historian Bill Routt has observed ‘the culture is more powerful than the white man’s history’ (10), the connection to the law cannot be broken. The story told by the film underlines this, and is based on a notion of an enduring and unchanging basis for law:

Dreaming is a really big thing for Aboriginal people. In our language, Yanuwa, we call the Dreaming Yijan. The Dreamings made our Law or narnu-Yuwa. This Law is the way we live, or rules. This Law is our ceremonies, our songs, our stories; all of these things came from the Dreaming. One thing that I can tell you though is that our Law is not like European Law which is always changing – new government, new laws; but our Law cannot change, we did not make it. The Law was made by the Dreamings many, many years ago and given to our ancestors and they gave it to us. (11)
Likewise, David Gulpilil has offered it to his collaborators, and his audience, in The Last Wave.
The Melbourne International Film Festival will present a retrospective look at David Gulpilil’s onscreen career from 30 July—16 August 2015. Find out more at the MIFF website (http://miff.com.au/program/streams/david-gulpilil). Footnotes 1. Author not attributed, ‘Need for more ‘dreamtime’ films—actor’, The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday November 30, 1977, p.8.
2. David Gulpilil quoted in Gill Harbant, ‘Actor’s Search for Truth’, Herald Sun, July 25, 2012, p.14. A documentary about Gulpilil, which was suggested by the actor, was titled Gulpilil: One Red Blood (Darlene Johnson, 2002). This is a message he frequently reiterates in interviews. The film itself was intended for ‘his people’ in particular, and marks an intracultural communication with Indigenous people that has become an interest of his work and communication prevalent since the 2000s.
3. Judith M. Kass, ‘Peter Weir Interviewed by Judith M. Kass’, accessed 16/6/15 from: http://www.peterweircave.com/articles/articlei.html
4. ibid.
5. As I have outlined previously, other directors he has engaged with in this way include Phillip Noyce and Rolf de Heer. See Lisa French ‘David Gulpilil, Aboriginal Humour, and Australian Cinema’ Studies in Australasian Cinema, Vol.8, Issue.1, April 2014, pp. 34-43. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17503175.2014.925319
6. Sue Mathews, ‘Years of Living Dangerously: The Last Wave, The Plumber, Gallipoli, The Year of Living Dangerously’, in John C. Tibbetts (ed.), Peter Weir Interviews, University Press of Mississippi: Jackson, 2014, p.91.
7. French, p. 40.
8. Mathews, p. 91.
9. Ruth Dewsbury, ‘Gulpilil’s Dream A Homeland with a Waterbed’, The Sydney Morning Herald: Good Weekend, May 8-9, 1987, p. 10 (article runs page 8-13)
10. Bill Routt quoted in Tom O’Regan, Australian National Cinema, Routledge: London, 1996, p. 192.
11. Mussolini Harvey from Bradley 1988, pp. x-xi quoted in Graham Harvey (ed.), Indigenous Religions, A Companion, Castle: London, 2000, pp. 126-27.

Emerging Archetypal Themes: The Last Wave by Peter Weir [I]By Cathy Lynn Pagano (http://www.opednews.com/author/author331.html) (about the author) (http://www.opednews.com/author/author331.html)

opednews.com (http://www.opednews.com)
Headlined to H4 3/14/12

The first movie I discuss, keeping with the theme of Pisces, dreams, tidal waves and the changing of the ages is director Peter Weir's 1977 movie, The Last Wave. It is available on Netflix or the whole movie can be found on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xv-N_p_9s-8
The first part of this blog, Our Need For New Archetypal Stories, as well as the third part on Tidal Wave Dreams & Neptune in Pisces can be found at: http://thebardsgrove.blogspot.com/2012/03/
The Last Wave: An Archetypal Movie about a Change in Consciousness
Peter Weir's 1977 movie The Last Wave is a moody, mysterious story about personal and cultural change. Two men from different worlds are confronted by a mystery; they both respond to it with honesty and integrity. This mystery seemingly centers around a mysterious death involving Australian Aborigines. But the real mystery forces one of these men to confront a rejected part of his inner psyche, an aspect of human life which western man has worked hard to make irrelevant.
It is the mystery of the psychic dimensions of life, our sixth sense that opens us to unseen realities, which are considered "primitive' by rational standards. It comes to us via our imagination. Our left-brain culture often chooses to ignore and vilify the reality of this right-brain imagination. The truth is without both views of life we die.
The movie opens with the arrival of a wild thunderstorm - both in the Australian desert and in the city. Children are playing outside a one-room schoolhouse in the desert when it suddenly starts to pour -- and then to hail. The baseball-sized hail draws blood from one of the children. Then we see people in the city, dealing with the downpour in a more frenetic way, going about business as usual. Only the Aborigines take notice that something out of the ordinary is happening. From these beginnings, the rains continue to fall throughout the story, soaking the atmosphere of the movie as much as the landscape. The land is being inundated. The waters of life are calling out. Who will listen? Who will answer their call?


SunWave by Cathy Pagano/Kepler (http://www.thebardsgrove.blogspot.com)

Water is an ancient symbol of the Great Mother, the feminine womb, the fertility and fountain of life. Life first arose in the oceans of the Earth. And without water, we die. Water is also symbolic of our feeling function, those gut feelings about what is right or what is wrong. The waters in this movie symbolize the unseen psychic realms that surround us, both the unconscious and the realm of dreams. From its beginning scenes, the movie painfully depicts how the dried-out landscape of Western culture is being inundated by the unseen watery realms. Since it takes place in Australia, Mr. Weir brings us the message through the Dreamtime of the ancient Aborigines.
Dreams, intuitions, feelings - these are aspects of our western psyche which have been repressed since the Age of Enlightenment. Women, more often than men, are connected with our feelings and intuitions, even though we have been trained to ignore them through ridicule and disbelief. In the 70s, women were re-discovering the ancient Goddess, as well as reclaiming her ancient powers of emotional intelligence and visionary intuition. It is the realm of Feminine Consciousness which is operating when we talk about dreams and visions. Another example of how most feminine gifts and talents have been vilified and rejected by our patriarchal society! The exciting aspect of this is that these feminine functions of the human psyche will be growing stronger within all of us during the next 14 years, as the planet Neptune moves through the sign of Pisces (see the end of this article). If we work with these energies, we can create a new world. If we continue to fear them, we will be overwhelmed by them.
Back in 1977, writer and director Peter Weir explored these concepts in The Last Wave through his male characters.
Peter Weir, in an interview with Judith M. Kass in New York City (http://www.peterweircave.com/articles/articlei.html) in 1979 said:
"I suppose I've been shaving some mornings and I've watched water coming out of the tap and I've thought, "It seems to be under control'. What if I couldn't turn it off and no plumber could? We think we have nature under control. Disasters always happen in Third World countries; in my part of the world we're OK because we've organized things. We wouldn't permit a cyclone to hit the city. It seems to me we've lost touch with the fear of nature. More than the respect for it, because there are too many poems written about the respect for nature. To be absolutely dead scared. Tonight, we could leave this building and there'd be a special kind of wind blowing. If that wind is howling with a voice like the voice of a person, a four-year-old child might say to us, "The wind's talking to us," and we'll say, "No it isn't, don't be silly. It's just howling around those wires." Organize his imagination, everything's under control. It's just part of something we've lost touch with, another way of seeing the world. It was part of a balance of things, a balance within us, and we've eliminated it since the Industrial Revolution and it's forcing its way back. People make movies about it, write books about it. Often they're junk. Children are born with it, with this balance. We teach it out, but it'll find its way back with some of us."

Our imaginations have been colonized by our western culture's insistence on rationalism as the sole source of wisdom and knowledge. It will become our undoing unless we free up our imaginations and listen to our dreams once again. This is the journey of our movie's hero, David Burton, a white lawyer who finds himself caught up in a murder mystery involving a group of Aboriginal men. The death and even David's involvement in the case is mysterious, since he is a corporate taxation lawyer, not a defense attorney. He nevertheless takes on the case, and immediately both his professional life and his personal life begin to unravel.
Plagued by visions of water and recurring dreams about a mysterious Aboriginal man who shows him a rock with ancient inscriptions on it, David's rational world further crumbles when he meets Chris, the man in his dreams, one of the men accused of murder. Chris becomes his gateway into the world of the Dreamtime, when he brings an old shaman, Charlie, to David's house. When David asks Charlie about tribal matters (a taboo which is the reason the original man was killed) Charlie tells him, "Law is more important than man."

Charlie tells David a deep truth about the Aborigines and about all ancient peoples. For them, law is more important than a single person. Ancient cultures developed their sense of identity through their tribal stories and hidden rituals. The wisdom of the ancestors was embodied in the tribe's myths and legends. Each person lived according to these tribal and often cosmic laws. To step outside these laws could bring destruction not only to oneself but to the whole tribe. This makes every member of the tribe responsible for all the tribe.
This is tribal law. Charlie kills the man who broke the taboo by stealing one of the tribal power objects. He kills him in the Dreamtime to protect the ancient ways. Chris and Charlie try to get David to back off from his defense for them, that they are tribal people still living in Sydney. The whites don't know this and the Aborigines want to keep it a secret. But David, in his zeal to save them, won't listen to them.

Aboriginal Art by Roslyn Ann Kem (http://www.karaartservers.ch/aboriginalart/kemp/03.html)

This is an apt metaphor for what Western culture has done to the world, because our rational standpoint has often cut us off from life and led us to ignore the cosmic laws of Nature as well as the tribal laws of others. And so we bring disaster upon ourselves and our world. Charlie, as the tribe's shaman, is making sure that his world and its mysteries stay safe. The men are prepared to go to prison to protect the tribal laws.
But our western ways have already infiltrated the ancient ways. While David feels he is serving the cause of justice, he is breaking the barriers between two cultures. It is Chris who helps him -- Chris who comes to him in his dreams and shows him the stolen object. Chris and David become the vehicles, the twin souls, who bring about a new possibility for both cultures.
Here we have two men: one white, one black; one tribal aboriginal, one highly sophisticated Western civilized man. Both fine men. One of them has material wealth; one has spiritual wealth. I wanted my lawyer, with his material wealth, with his humanitarian principles, to, firstly, glimpse with his mind that there was another lost dream, or spiritual life, and then to touch it. (Peter Weir interview)
David does just that when he won't let go of the mystery. Chris tries to mediate between the old ways of the shaman and David's western ways. When he explains the Dreamtime, David asks him, "What are dreams?" and he answers, "Dreams are hearing, seeing, feeling ways of knowing. Dreams are the shadows of something real." Now we get to the essence of the story. How can modern man accept the reality of the Dreamtime -- or even his own dreams? David's response to this issue is central to the story. If he can accept the dream reality, something important will change.

When David seeks out the old shaman who has been terrorizing his family, trying to stop David from using the argument that this was a tribal killing, he has to face the BIG question of life. He finds Charlie, seated on the floor of an empty room in Sydney; when confronted, Charlie rocks back and forth, asking David over and over again, "Who are You? Who are You? Who are You? Are you a fish? Are you a snake? Are you a man? Who are You? Who are You? Who are You?" Charlie is at a loss to know who David is, and can only confront David with his own mystery. Can our inner dreamer really trust our ego to listen, to understand and to act in the whole's best interest? Or will we have more of the same?
Later, David's stepfather, a minister, reminds him that when he was a child, he used to be a dreamer. He told his parents that people came to take him to another world while he slept. But after he dreamed his mother's death, he locked that part of himself away, hidden so deep he forgot about it. Such a beautiful image for western man, who has cut himself off from the power of dreams and visions in his search to control life and nature! At the point in the movie where the waters are flooding him and he seemingly has lost everything, he asks his stepfather, "Why didn't you tell me there were mysteries?" His father's response is, "We lost our dreams."
As David reclaims his belief in the Dreamtime, Chris comes to him and shows him the way to the tribe's secret caves below Sydney. There David confronts the old shaman and in a battle of wills, overcomes him. If the old ways must die, then the new life carries forward the essence of wisdom that formed the core of that older wisdom. It seems neither the old shaman nor the old David will do. There needs to be balance, there needs to be an acceptance of both worlds. There needs to be a new possible human.
Exploring the sacred site, David sees the ancient stories drawn on the cave walls, stories of men who came to the Aborigines in the past from the East at the turning of the ages when there was a giant tidal wave which destroyed everything. They are somehow his people, for they look like him. He quickly gathers up a mask he finds there -- a mask that bears his own face - and leaves the caves. But when David tries to go back the way he came in, he finds the way barred. He loses faith and drops the mask. His old identity - no matter how wondrous - is left behind. He can only go forward, down through the sewers and then out in a new birth.
As he stumbles out of a sewage pipe onto the beach as the sun rises, he sees before him the mighty wave, building and building, ready to break. Peter Weir's vision of this wave is ambiguous. Is the wave a dreamtime reality? Or is a tsunami headed his way? Will our hero survive? Will we survive? Can we integrate the power of our own dream time? Only time will tell.

David Guyatt
11-29-2015, 01:01 PM
The first and third article were really very enjoyable, I thought. Thanks for posting them Maggie. The film is a must watch for me. And yep, a real blast from the past when things were more relaxed and political correctness was still unthought of.

R.K. Locke
11-29-2015, 04:36 PM
This looks really interesting. Thanks for the tip.