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The Last Wave


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The Last Wave Essay, Research Paper

The Last Wave

SOC 118 “The Last Wave”-Peter Weir dir.(1977)

In the film, The Last Wave, the director is trying to communicate the

idea of a culture within a culture or sub culture. The dominant culture in the

film is the white members of society living in Australia. The subculture in the

film is the Aborigines who were natives to the land before the white people

settled in Australia. The natives sustained their cultural beliefs and

ideologies while living in largely populated cities. The dominant white culture

imposes their laws , ideas of societal values and moral beliefs on the native

Aborigines. Forcing them to abide by a different law system and way of life

than what their peoples have practiced for hundreds of years. In the movie the

lawyer, David, represents the dominant culture to the Aborigines because he

represents the law that is controlling their fate in the white culture.

The director is also giving us many symbols or visual communication such

as the consistency of water in the film as well as, the overbearing control of

darkness. The film is shot in shadows and overall is very dark , almost forcing

us to look beyond the obvious plot and storyline and into the meaning or what

the film/director is trying to tell us. The darkness in the film can be seen as

unconsciousness. It can also be seen as a prediction of the darkness that will

occur in the world when the last wave comes. The last wave meaning a giant

tidal wave that will cover the earth , killing humanity. This idea is similar

to the Christian belief in the flood that was sent down centuries ago to destroy

all the evil in the world. Also, all the modern aspects of the movie (courtroom,

David’s office..etc) are filmed in light. While, all of the Aborigines’ scenes

are filmed in darkness or shadows. Giving me the impression of something

mysterious or not understood by the whites concerning the Aborigines. The fact

that all the modern scenes are filmed in light can also support the idea of the

white culture being the predominate culture in the film but yet not dominant

enough to take away the shadows(mysterious , mystical)aspect of the Aborigines.

The lawyer, David, Also goes through a series of dreams and premonitions.

This is stressing the idea of mind power and mystical strength that the

Aborigines have. In that way they can be seen as the dominant culture. David

is stuck between two worlds. The world he knows and understands and the other

world that he is definitely a part of but does not understand. As he tries to

grapple with the idea that he may be linked to the Aborigines, his own cultural

beliefs are changing. He is forming a complex view on life, a combination of

ways of viewing the world by both the white Christians and the Aborigines.

The dream sequences in the film are sometimes difficult to distinguish

from the warped reality that is being portrayed. Overall, they do give us a

chance to think and attempt to comprehend what is going through the mind of

David. For he cannot distinguish at times what is real and not real. But what

is real depends on if you perceive it as real as an individual.

To me, the film is saying that their is a definite cultural conflict

between the Christians and the Aborigines living in Australia. Whichever one

the viewer perceives as being dominant or subdominant, he will perceive the fact

that their is a culture clash. The viewer may also see the idea that the

Aborigines(tribal) are not understood in white society and David is the only one

who can. He is the link between the two worlds, and at the same time he is the

wall separating them.

Overall, I feel the film was good concerning the ideas behind the

storyline. But due in part to the director’s fetish for water and darkness, he

almost destroys the storyline to me. And without the storyline, you cannot

interpret the film in a well structured way. Also, the symbolism is so

predominant, it points at the viewers lack of intelligence . Similar to someone

repeating themselves while speaking over and over and over and over, merely to

stress a point. Too bad by that time the point is beyond stressed it is almost

destroyed completely.

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