The Last Wave (1977)
May 12, 2018 9:50 AM - Subscribe

A Sydney lawyer defends five Aborigines in a ritualized taboo murder and in the process learns disturbing things about himself and premonitions.

The Guardian: Conceptually similar to writer/director Jeff Nichols’s acclaimed 2011 indie Take Shelter, about a paranoid man convinced an apocalyptic storm is coming, the story revolves around a logical-thinking lawyer who gradually comes to realise his place in a mystical narrative related to the Dreamtime.

If the premise sounds airy, Weir’s execution (working from a tremendous screenplay by Tony Morphett and Petru Popescu) feels unerringly realistic, even when the story spills into the realm of the fantastical.

David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) takes on the job of defending a group of Indigenous people accused of murdering an Aboriginal man. The cause of death is uncertain and nobody’s talking. Investigating the case, and road-blocked at every turn, he comes to believe it may involve tribal rituals and that arguing so in court provides an angle for the defence.

A colleague dispels this idea and implores him not to raise it. “The people we call Aborigines in the city, are no different than depressed whites,” he says. “We destroyed their languages, their ceremonies, songs, dances – and their tribal law.”

Real and unreal merge when one of the five people accused of murder, Chris Lee (DavidNYT Gulpilil) materialises from David’s dreams. Chris is unsurprised to hear he’s transmogrified from the lawyer’s subconscious state to his real life, and when a mysterious companion named Charlie (Nandjiwarra Amagula) arrives things get even weirder.

NYTimes: Though the inspiration of Mr. Weir and his associates runs out before the end, “The Last Wave” is an impressive work from a director new to American audiences. He's a man whose ability to find the eerie in the commonplace might please Hitchcock. Mr. Weir got very nice performances from his cast, especially from Mr. Chamberlain, who knows that an actor's obligation in such a film is to play it as small and ordinary as possible, and from Gulpilil. This actor, a full‐blooded aborigine, creates a fascinating, self‐contained character, the sort of person who has been shown all the mysteries. As a result, he can no longer be surprised or hurt by anything, only mildly amused or disappointed.


David Stratton on 'The Last Wave'

An Authentic Dreamtime: David Gulpilil and The Last Wave (Peter Weir, 1977)

Transcript of Interview of Peter Weir about 'The Last Wave'
posted by MoonOrb (1 comment total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've seen this only once, many years ago, but I've never quite gotten over the final shot.
posted by doctornecessiter at 5:14 AM on May 16, 2018

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