I’ve finally watched the great Australian film, Wake In Fright (1970). It’s the story of a school-teacher’s descent into a hell of drinking, gambling, and violence when he gets stuck at an outback town called the Yabba on his way back to Sydney. The brutality of the characters’ dissipation is matched by the beauty of the film-making, each scene, each shot so well-composed to capture the landscape, the drama, the horror. Watching it in stops and starts over a week as I fed my newborn son, I was acutely aware of its achievements at a micro-level.
It’s such an ambitious film. It successfully attempts to depict the dark side of the Australian psyche. Aboriginals hover at the edge of several shots, never speaking. The orgy of gambling stops only for a surreal moment’s silence to remember the fallen Anzacs. The only crime is to refuse a beer with a bloke.
It’s unthinkable that this film was out of circulation for years, considered lost until the discovery of a print in a discard bin and its splendid restoration for its 2009 re-release.
It’s quite a film, isn’t it? It’s sort of marketed today as if it’s a horror film, but the horror of it is that it’s simply portraying white male Aussie alcohol culture in a fairly realistic way. Fascinating that it’s made by a Canadian. I’m not sure that an Aussie filmmaker could be this uncompromising in looking at our own culture.
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Nathan Hobby said:
Good point about the marketing – it’s hardly a 1970s Wolf Creek; more like Kafka in the outback, or perhaps Under the Volcano.
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