- Movie Rating -

The Last Wave (1979)

| January 11, 1979

There lives eternally in me a passionate love of films from Australia.  Like films from Japan or Sweden, they just seem to walk and talk like nothing else in any other culture.  I treasure films from down under, films like Walkabout, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, My Brilliant Career and Tim.  There is just something about the texture of these films that doesn’t seem like it could take place anywhere else on Earth. 

Added to that, for me, is The Last Wave, a bizarre thriller that was dismissed by the critics when it was released, but is never-the-less an absorbing movie about tribal mysticism and the strange pull of the supernatural.  Peter Wier directed the movie as his follow-up to Picnic at Hanging Rock and here he delves into deeper into the strange world of the mystic.  His canvas is filled with dreamy imagery and weird sound effects that make this an odd experience.

Plus, for a supernatural thriller that comes out of Australia, the casting of leading man is quite a surprise: Richard Chamberlain, star of all those American TV miniseries that your Mom and Grandma use to watch.  He plays David Burton, a lawyer who gets mixed up in a strange criminal case as the same moment that the continent is experiencing unexplained changes in the weather.  This could have something to do with the fact that the case involves a murder with several Aborigine people involved.

What that means for the story is hefty doses of mysticism and portents of the future.  At the film’s start, several of the natives have been in a fight in a bar that ended with one man dead on the floor.  David, who is a tax lawyer who doesn’t usually deal with criminal cases, finds his comfort zones upended during the investigation when he tries to solve the murder and find out how it is connected to the strange behavior of the country’s weather.

If you know Weir’s work, then you know that he is not a director who holds your hand.  His narratives take turns and twists and often fall down a hole that he doesn’t quite recover from – that’s a good thing.  In The Last Wave we are treated to imagry so random and so bizarre that we’re not always sure what we’re seeing.  Even the last image is left to our imagination.

This does not sit well with a lot of people, but I love trying to interpret and follow the metaphysical puzzle that Weir has laid out for me.  I can understand how David could be pulled in by it and I’m convinced that he often understands more of the images that he is seeing then I am.  I haven’t quite figured it all out, and I’m not sure that I ever will.  But it’s a game that I like to play.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Drama