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  Last Wave, The The Rain Must Fall
Year: 1977
Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Richard Chamberlain, Olivia Hamnett, David Gulpilil, Frederick Parslow, Vivean Gray, Nandjiwarra Amagula, Walter Amagula, Roy Bara, Cedrick Lalara, Morris Lalara, Peter Carroll, Athol Compton, Hedley Cullen, Michael Duffield, Wallis Eaton, Jo England
Genre: Horror, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: The Australian Outback where a class of schoolchildren are playing outside during their break when one of them notices the sound of thunder from out of a clear blue sky. Puzzled, he alerts his teacher, when suddenly a burst of torrential rain hits the area and everyone dashes inside to shelter from it; once inside, the children are excited but this turns to terror when fist-sized hailstones start smashing down onto the building. Thus begins the freak weather that strikes the country, with unseasonally wet conditions for what is supposed to be summer time: in Sydney, lawyer David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) is dreaming again...

For his third film, writer and director Peter Weir continued with his determinedly off-kilter view of Australia by delving even further into a mystical take on the land. Here it was the Aborigines he was concerned with, and fashioned a culture clash between the blacks and the whites which was brought out by a prophecy that nobody in the film seems willing to talk about, least of all those who know what might actually be going on. One of those who knew was Weir himself, and he kept his cards close to his chest in a work that many found themselves baffled by on the surface, yet in a curious way were able to follow and perceive what was happening even if specific details were vague.

It may be that The Last Wave is one of those films which improves on second viewing, because once you know what to expect you can pick out the clues as to what all the dreams, premonitions and visions could possibly mean. David finds himself suffering from these, although he is not the only one, as he seems to be some kind of reincarnated holy man, though not an indigenous one. This state of affairs is intensified when the rains hit his city, and he hallucinates that a shaman is hanging around outside his home, which might be real or might not be as his mental state is ambiguously presented. When he gets a case to work on that involves five Aborigines who have apparently murdered one of their friends in a bar fight, things only get worse.

David considers himself a forward-thinking individual, and wants to get acquainted his clients better, but soon finds he is doing this not because he wishes to succeed in their case, but mainly because he is growing obsessed with the idea that there is something major about to be brought down on the heads of the planet. We can guess what that might be from the title, but there's a fuzziness to the plotting, all entirely deliberate, that does something for the atmosphere that a plethora of special effects in a Roland Emmerich style could not do. Here we feel that something unimaginably cataclysmic is impending, and that unease is shot through the whole film, with only a few actual special effects to bolster it.

This means that much of the disquiet in the movie stems from the sense that we are intruding on something the modern world cannot conceive of, which could, in a worst case scenario, have rendered the drama an awful "white man's burden" horror film where the Aborigines are the source of all the chills. And yet, while this does have a science fictional mood akin to depicting the whites as colonisers of an alien planet without understanding their new environment, Weir remains sympathetic to the natives, and indeed sought the advice of his Aboriginal cast members when writing his script. Among those actors was David Gulpilil, best known from Walkabout, as one of the accused who becomes David's guide through his awakening consciousness, although the fact that what he is relaying is forbidden knowledge only makes the genuine strangeness almost palpable. Add in some striking images, from the scene where David sees a street underwater to the arresting, final "is it real or not?" sequence, and you have a horror film not quite like anything else.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Peter Weir  (1944 - )

Australian writer and director with a touch of the mystical about his work, usually fish out of water dramas. After various short films, he made The Cars That Ate Paris, a darkly funny horror which nearly ended his career when it failed financially. But he bounced back with Picnic at Hanging Rock, an international hit which led to apocalyptic fantasy The Last Wave, war tragedy Gallipoli and political thriller The Year of Living Dangerously, whereupon he moved to Hollywood to direct Amish thriller Witness, survival tale The Mosquito Coast, Dead Poets Society (possibly his worst film), comedy Green Card, spiritual air crash drama Fearless, science fiction satire The Truman Show, historical adventure Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and WW2 era trek movie The Way Back.

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