SOC 118
“The Last Wave”-Peter Weir dir.(1977)

In the film, The Last Wave, the director is trying to communicate the idea of a
culture within a culture or sub culture. The dominant culture in the film is the white
members of society living in Australia. The subculture in the film is the Aborigines who
were natives to the land before the white people settled in Australia. The natives
sustained their cultural beliefs and ideologies while living in largely populated cities.
The dominant white culture imposes their laws , ideas of societal values and moral
beliefs on the native Aborigines. Forcing them to abide by a different law system and
way of life than what their peoples have practiced for hundreds of years. In the movie
the lawyer, David, represents the dominant culture to the Aborigines because he
represents the law that is controlling their fate in the white culture.
The director is also giving us many symbols or visual communication such as the
consistency of water in the film as well as, the overbearing control of darkness. The film
is shot in shadows and overall is very dark , almost forcing us to look beyond the obvious
plot and storyline and into the meaning or what the film/director is trying to tell us. The
darkness in the film can be seen as unconsciousness. It can also be seen as a prediction
of the darkness that will occur in the world when the last wave comes. The last wave
meaning a giant tidal wave that will cover the earth , killing humanity. This idea is
similar to the Christian belief in the flood that was sent down centuries ago to destroy all
the evil in the world. Also, all the modern aspects of the movie (courtroom, David’s
office..etc) are filmed in light. While, all of the Aborigines’ scenes are filmed in darkness
or shadows. Giving me the impression of something mysterious or not understood by the
whites concerning the Aborigines. The fact that all the modern scenes are filmed in light
can also support the idea of the white culture being the predominate culture in the film
but yet not dominant enough to take away the shadows(mysterious , mystical)aspect of
the Aborigines.
The lawyer, David, Also goes through a series of dreams and premonitions. This
is stressing the idea of mind power and mystical strength that the Aborigines have. In
that way they can be seen as the dominant culture. David is stuck between two worlds.
The world he knows and understands and the other world that he is definitely a part of
but does not understand. As he tries to grapple with the idea that he may be linked to the
Aborigines, his own cultural beliefs are changing. He is forming a complex view on life,
a combination of ways of viewing the world by both the white Christians and the
The dream sequences in the film are sometimes difficult to distinguish from the
warped reality that is being portrayed. Overall, they do give us a chance to think and
attempt to comprehend what is going through the mind of David. For he cannot
distinguish at times what is real and not real. But what is real depends on if you perceive
it as real as an individual.

To me, the film is saying that their is a definite cultural conflict between the
Christians and the Aborigines living in Australia. Whichever one the viewer perceives as
being dominant or subdominant, he will perceive the fact that their is a culture clash.
The viewer may also see the idea that the Aborigines(tribal) are not understood in white
society and David is the only one who can. He is the link between the two worlds, and at
the same time he is the wall separating them.

Overall, I feel the film was good concerning the ideas behind the storyline. But
due in part to the director’s fetish for water and darkness, he almost destroys the storyline
to me. And without the storyline, you cannot interpret the film in a well structured way.
Also, the symbolism is so predominant, it points at the viewers lack of intelligence .
Similar to someone repeating themselves while speaking over and over and over and
over, merely to stress a point. Too bad by that time the point is beyond stressed it is
almost destroyed completely.

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