When I am watching an older Australian movie, it makes me “want to go to there” as Liz Lemon would say. You don’t really get how humid in the summer or dry in the outback it can be there from watching a movie but it’s a good start to seeing the continent, if you can’t ever get there in person. I have been lucky enough to have visited Australia twice and I highly recommend it. These are the movies that I’ve seen that make Australia stand out to me and interested me from the start.
Two things about Australia:
1. Always wear a hat.
2. Watch out for insects and snakes. They’ll kill you.
Picnic at Hanging Rock – 1975
People think that this was based on a true story and it isn’t. They set it up like it is though. The girls go for a treat to Hanging Rock on Valentine’s Day in a remote location and interesting things befall them. It gives you a good education on how strict boarding schools were when they were in charge of their pupils. There are a lot of really great quotes that just seem to spout from the girls.
“Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place.”
The outfits and fashion of that time are quite fun to look at, as are the hairdos of some of the Australian well-to-do ladies. The silence, parrots, lizards, snakes and buzzing of the insects are some of the things that make this movie special to me. It makes me wonder what happened to Dominic Guard. I was huge fan of his in The Go-Between. The music in this movie is superb and really makes it feel eerie.
I have an affinity for Australian movies which focus on more cinematography and setting the stage than actually giving the viewer any closure. The dreamlike quality of this movie is what makes it memorable.
Walkabout – 1971
Even though there is very little dialogue except between the sister and the brother, you really understand the bond that they have. She tries to protect him so much and pretends that everything is okay in order to keep his hopes up.
The beginning starts with a bang and doesn’t really give you much insight as to why the siblings end up in the outback besides that they obviously drove there for a picnic. Looks like picnics always spell trouble for Australian movies made in the 70s. lol
The Thorn Birds – (miniseries) – 1983
This was my gateway movie into learning about Australia and some of the customs. It was also my gateway movie into forbidden love on a sheep station– kidding!
This movie was based on Colleen McCullough’s book of the same name and depicted the lonely existence on a sheep station back in the day. Meggie has a distinct relationship with Richard Chamberlain’s character that may seem out of sorts in our current era of speculation of anything between a young girl and a priest. While it may feel a bit odd at first, the movie moves slowly enough to encapsulate all of the emotions and background that goes into the relationship and makes it more of a heart-wrenching drama than something else. But, you make your own opinions once you’ve seen it.
My Brilliant Career – 1979
Sybylla, played by Judy Davis, is an opinionated and headstrong girl who does what she wants and damn the consequences. She wants to be a writer and considers no other job to be of quite the same importance. Her strained relationship with her mother takes a toll and her jealousy of her sister ends up making her look like a fool. She gets pretty close to a man of means but eventually sees that there are other possibilities awaiting her. Sam Neill stars in this movie as Harry and as a young man he was definitely worth watching.
Miles Franklin wrote her 1901 book, My Brilliant Career, when she was very young and published it under the name Miles Franklin. After she published it, she got a lot of grief about the plot and characters being so similar to her own circumstances. So much grief, in fact, that she recalled the book after she published it.