The Last Wave
|The Last Wave|
|Directed by||Peter Weir|
|Produced by||Hal and Jim McElroy|
|Written by||Peter Weir
|Music by||Charles Wain|
|Edited by||Max Lemon|
|Distributed by||World Northal (US)|
|13 December 1977
January 1979 (US)
|Box office||A$1,258,000 (Aust)
The Last Wave (released as Black Rain in the United States) is an Australian mystery drama film from 1977, directed by Peter Weir. It is about a white solicitor in Sydney whose seemingly normal life is disrupted after he takes on a murder case and discovers that he shares a strange, mystical connection with the small group of local Australian Aborigines accused of the crime.
The film opens with a montage of scenes of daily life in Australia in the 1970s: a rural school in the desert, the main street of an outback town, a traffic jam in the city, all being affected by unusually adverse weather conditions that suddenly appear. Only the local Aboriginal people seem to recognize the cosmological significance of these weather phenomena.
During one of these "freak rainstorms" in Sydney, an altercation occurs among a group of Aborigines in a pub, which results in the mysterious death of one of them. At the coroner's inquest, the death is ruled a homicide; and four men are accused of murder. Through the Australian Legal Aid system, David Burton (Richard Chamberlain) is procured for their defence. The circumstances by which he was contacted and retained are unusual, in that his law practice is corporate taxation and not criminal defense. He nonetheless takes on the case, and his professional and personal lives begin to unravel.
Plagued by bizarre dreams, Burton begins to sense an otherworldly connection to one of the accused (David Gulpilil). He also feels connected to the increasingly strange weather phenomena besetting the city. His dreams intensify along with his obsession with the murder case, which he comes to believe is an Aboriginal tribal killing by curse, in which the victim believed. Learning more about Aboriginal practices and the concept of Dreamtime as a parallel world of existence, Burton comes to believe the strange weather bodes of a coming apocalypse.
The film climaxes in a confrontation between the lawyer and the tribe's shaman in a subterranean sacred site. Overcoming the shaman, Burton escapes to the surface, but in the tunnel loses various tribal relics. After emerging from the sewer, he collapses on the beach and stares entranced at the horizon. The screen is filled by the shot of a towering ocean wave, though it remains unclear whether we are witnessing reality or sharing in Burton's final, apocalyptic premonition.
- Richard Chamberlain as David Burton
- Olivia Hamnett as Annie Burton
- David Gulpilil as Chris Lee
- Frederick Parslow as Reverend Burton
- Vivean Gray as Dr Whitburn
- Nandjiwarra Amagula as Charlie
- Walter Amagula as Gerry Lee
- Roy Bara as Larry
- Cedrick Lalara as Lindsey
- Morris Lalara as Jacko
- Peter Carroll as Michael Zeadler
- Athol Compton as Billy Corman
- Hedley Cullen as Judge
- Michael Duffield as Andrew Potter
- Wallas Eaton as Morgue Doctor
In an interview on the Criterion Collection DVD release, director Peter Weir explains that the film explores the question, "What if someone with a very pragmatic approach to life experienced a premonition?" Entered in the 6th Tehran International Film Festival in November 1977, the film won the Golden Ibex prize.
Finance was provided by the Australian Film Commission ($120,000), the South Australian Film Corporation ($120,000), Janus Films (US$50,000) and United Artists ($350,000). US based writer Petru Popescu worked on the script. Weir considered two Australian actors to play the lead but eventually decided to go with Richard Chamberlain. Filming started 24 February 1977 and took place in Adelaide and Sydney.
Reception & Accolades
The Last Wave was met with positive reviews from critics and audiences, earning an 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
(1977 AFI Awards)
|Best Direction||Peter Weir||Nominated|
|Best Original Screenplay||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Richard Chamberlain||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Russell Boyd||Won|
|Best Editing||Max Lemon||Nominated|
|Best Original Music Score||Charles Wain||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Greg Bell||Won|
The Last Wave was not as popular as Picnic at Hanging Rock but still grossed $1,258,000 at the box office in Australia, which is equivalent to $5,786,800 in 2009 dollars.
United Artists decided not to release the film in the US but it was picked up by World Northal for distribution and enjoyed a popular run.
- Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 321-322
- "Overseas Releases", Cinema Papers, May–June 1979 p332
- Variety film review; 16 November 1977, page 21.
- "The Last Wave". Creative Spirits. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
- David Stratton, The Last New Wave: The Australian Film Revival, Angus & Robertson, 1980 p75-77
- Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
- The Last Wave at the Internet Movie Database
- The Last Wave at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Last Wave at AllMovie
- The Last Wave at Oz Movies
- "The Last Wave", essay by Diane Jacobs, Criterion Collection
- The Last Wave, National Film and Sound Archive, Australia