The Last Wave

1977, Movie, PG, 106 mins


A powerful, yet subtle, picture from Australian director Peter Weir, who has demonstrated quite a flair for mystical themes. Like his earlier work, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, this picture involves inexplicable events and their connection with the aboriginal world and the ancient Australian landscape. The picture opens as a raging thunderstorm from a clear blue sky drenches a small desert settlement, and then flashes quickly to Sydney, which is also in the midst of a torrential downpour. A voice over the radio unconvincingly attempts to explain the phenomenon as a reaction to cold winds from the Antarctic. An earlier shot of an aborigine painting on a cave wall lets the viewer know there is something at work here that transcends scientific explanation, setting the mood for the rest of the film. The contrast between the Western viewpoint, which attributes geophysical results to scientific reason, and the aboriginal perspective of a cosmos beyond the grasp of conscious thought, creates a tension that is carried throughout the film. Chamberlain plays a Sydney lawyer who becomes involved in defending a group of aborigines accused of murder (despite his lack of experience with both aborigines and criminal law).

Weir does a fine job of weaving real events with dream sequences, as well as capturing the aboriginal perspective--this is one of few films that does not portray the aborigines as a defeated people, entirely subjugated by white settlers. Chamberlain is convincing as a wealthy lawyer and family man who becomes possessed by a vision beyond his grasp. Although the plot falters in a few instances, it maintains a high level of overall suspense. leave a comment

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