"A dream is a shadow...of something real"
Wing J. Flanagan | Orlando, Florida United States | 07/29/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
""What are dreams?" asks lawyer David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) of his client Chris Lee (David Gulpilil), an Australian Aborigine on trial for manslaughter."I will show you a dream," he responds. "A dream is a shadow...of something real."And, when you think about it, so are films. They are literally shadows of something real - recorded on transparent strips and projected onto screens with bright lights. Watching a good film is like dreaming while awake.Peter Weir's The Last Wave has very much the texture of a beautiful, disturbing dream. Before going Hollywood and losing his artistic teeth, he made evocative little gems like this one - full of unformed dread and pregnant with the possibility of mythic revelation. The plot concerns a routine bar fight between some Aborigines in Sydney, Australia, that ends in the death of one of them. Lawyer David Burton is called in as a Public Defender. No big deal - except that the case seems to involve a lot more than a Saturday night celebration gone horribly awry. It may, in fact, have everything to do with an ancient prophecy marking the End of the Current Age - and a catastrophe of alarming proportions. Can Burton unravel the mystery of the prophecy - and of his own true nature - in time to avert the End of the World as we know it?Like a dream, The Last Wave unfolds with its own kind of logic - a logic that finds only a vague counterpart to our everyday sort of concrete reasoning. It's persuasive, too, the way any powerful dream always is. It makes us believe dialogue like I quoted at the top of this review, even though people never really talk that way in real life. It also forcefully reminds us that there is more than one culture in the world, and that we assume we are superior simply by virtue of our technology and science, at our own peril.In many ways, The Last Wave makes me think of Werner Herzog, who also makes deliberately paced, dream-like films about cultural clashes. If you enjoy Herzog, give this film a look. As a final note, The Last Wave probably deserves a thoughtful DVD release with a decent commentary track. Hint, hint, Criterion..."
Eerie, evocative, and haunting
Stephen Chakwin | Norwalk, CT USA | 08/18/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Our modern, rational culture floats like a small boat on a huge, dark ocean of unguessable depth. Richard Chamberlain, in perhaps his best role ever, is a lawyer specializing in the arid technicalities of corporate taxation who is, by chance [well no, not really, as it turns out] drawn into the Shamanic world of the tribal aborigines who, unknown to most people, still inhabit Sydney, Australia. Little by little, the comfortable everyday world in which Chamberlain's character lived starts to dissolve, or at least become transparent, before the unguessably ancient and very different world around it. Meanwhile nature is acting very strange, paralleling the breakdown in Chamberlain's character. A wonderful movie, full of rich metaphors and images (including the final one) that remain in the mind long after the film is over. Even the soundtrack: some aboriginal instruments, some very nervous-sounding Australian-Irish dance music, and some spare but oh-so-telling chords, can stay with you for days. What are dreams anyway and what do we buy by living in a daylight world where we cannot see them? Weir suggests some provacative and disturbing answers."
"Are You A Fish? Are You A Man? Are you Melkur?" ~ Beware
Brian E. Erland | Brea, CA - USA | 07/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) is a well respected lawyer and family man living and practicing in Sydney, Australia. Of Occidental origin and Anglican faith, David has never been one overly concerned with the intangible, unexplainable mysteries of life. However his predictable, concrete world has recently been disrupted by a series of vivid and disturbing dreams that have called into question the very nature of reality. Unable to sleep for fear of more night visions he buries himself in his work.
His Stepfather, Reverend Burton (Frederick Parslow), notices the change in David's demeanor during a weekend visit with the family and questions his Stepson on the matter. David confides in him with the statement, "I'm having bad dreams." As a conversation ensues David is reminded of a series of repetitive nightmares he had as a child. He would awaken in the morning to tell his parents that taxicab drivers came to him in dreams and took him on long drives during the night. That's why he was always tired in the morning.
Despite the ongoing dreams and a serious lack of sleep life must go on. He is assigned his first homicide case, he is to defend a group of aborigines in what appears to be a tribal ritual murder. The night before he is to meet his new clients he is visited by a young aborigine in another vivid dream. The unidentified man is holding a triangular rock containing some cryptic carvings and symbols. He stretches out his arm towards David as though offering him the stone.
This dream unexpectedly and dramatically takes human form the next day when he meets Chris Lee (David Gulpilil), one of the murder suspects. Chris just happens to be the aborigine in his dream. David invites the young man to his home for dinner in an attempt to discover the truth not only about the murder case, but the meaning of dreams. When Chris arrives for dinner that evening he is not alone. He has brought Charlie (Nandjiwarra Amagula), an aborginal "clever man" or shaman (who earns a living in the city as a taxicab driver).
Thus is the beginning of a journey into a reality that Western Civilization has all but forgotten about. This is the "The Dreamtime" a separate but equally valid stream of consciousness existing alongside our waking world. David is soon to discover that his dreams are inexplicably connected to this archaic world and he is about to play an important role in either the continuation or destruction of both worlds.
In my estimation this is without question director Peter Weirs' signature film. He has captured on film something I wouldn't have thought possible, giving us a brief but illuminating firsthand glimpse into the very heart of aboriginal shamanism. The conversation concerning the 'nature of dreams' between David, Chris and Charlie is one of the most fascinating and mesmerizing mystical moments in cinematic history.
Richard Chamberlain is perfect in the role of David Burton. His ability to express his inner turmoil and fear of the unknown with the absolute minimal amount of dialogue or gesture attests to just how accomplished an actor he is. David Gulpilil (Walkabout, Crocodile Dundee & Rabbit-Proof Fence) is also the undisputed best choice for the part of Chris, providing a most striking contrast with Richard Chamberlain in both worldview and physical appearance.
However the real star of the film is Nandjiwarra Amagula. This of course is the ultimate in typecasting because Nandjiwarra is in fact an authentic aboriginal shaman. Truly a man of immense spiritual and physical magnetism, his mere presence on camera is capable of evoking the Dreamtime experience. If you have ever had the desire to pursue the shamanic path look deeply into the countenance of Nandjiwarra before you decide. Those eyes will tell you everything you need to know."
Jeff Bricker | Columbus, Ohio USA | 12/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hollywood cinema is narrative cinema, and most American-born directors are so busy telling a story that they forget to fill the screen with something interesting to look at. Australian-born Peter Weir avoided this mistake in his early work, producing films with just a sliver of plot but with imagery that has haunted some of us viewers for decades.Both of Weir's best films were made, in Australia, in the 1970's. THE LAST WAVE (1977) may even be superior to PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975), since the former ends too soon and the latter doesn't end quite soon enough.Weir's immigration to Hollywood in the 1980's drove most, but not all, of his early cinematic poetry out of WITNESS (1985) and THE MOSQUITO COAST (1986). His Hollywood films of the 90's were(surprise!) visually thin and plot heavy.Spooky, isn't it?"