I like Peter Weir movies and tonight I’m watching The Last Wave.
This flick gets ripped for being obscure and for not solving the mystery.
I will grant the latter. I think one of the responsibilities of artists who trade in mysteries in movies and books is they must, at some point, solve the mystery. Is that too much to ask? In both The Last Wave and Picnic at Hanging Rock. Mr. Weir chooses not to do so. I still like both films.
I will however, take issue with the accusation of obscurity.
Since my teens, I’ve had a literary addiction to novels and stories of the supernatural. One of my favorite British authors is from the early 20th century; Arthur Machen. Machen writes often of nature in revolt – of nature, thought to be tamed, but perpetually about to bust out and re-exert dominance over man in disorienting and disturbing ways. In this light, The Last Wave makes amazing sense.
Nature hovers. Disturbing and disorienting intrusions occur.
- Baseball-sized hail falls from a cloudless sky.
- From his protective bubble of a car in a torrential downpour, Richard Chamberlain sees;
- A man with an extreme umbrella drinking from a water fountain. Why doesn’t just open his mouth? No, he chooses the “tame” water over nature’s wild water.
- A poster for the local zoo featuring apes gazing back at Chamberlain in his car. Who’s really caged and on display?
- Vehicles crawling through snarled traffic with icons on them featuring the image of a jungle cat; jaguars in the streets.
- At Chamberlain’s home, with the maelstrom outside continuing to rage, turning the windows of the home into images like the inside of a dishwasher, water appears inside the house flowing down the stairs. We immediately assume there’s been a leak from the outside, but it turns out to be a bathtub overflowing. Water thought to be tamed…
- Chamberlain’s wife admits that she’s a fourth-generation Australian, but she’s never met an aboriginal. She’s lived distanced from nature, behind societal barriers that now appear to be quite fragile.
This is not obscure. It’s mysterious and ominous, but not obscure. We think we’ve tamed and sealed out nature from our lives. (Climate change? Pshaw!)
But nature will persist. It will find a way past our barriers. It will win. How scary is that? Nothing obscure at all.
It’s a fine and effective film.