Australia (2008)

Australia‘s the new film epic by Baz Luhrmann, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. And if it wasn’t for the three of them (and David Wenham), I’d probably be spitting fire right now.

[Seriously, I feel like I haven’t seen a good movie in ages. Can’t I appreciate them right now or do they really all suck?]

Before I tell you all about my disdain, here’s the plot:

[SPOILERS]

australia1

Before the film, we get a prologue explaining about the Stolen Generations.

Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) travels to Australia to chase after her husband, who started a cattle farm there. Unfortunately, before she arrives, he’s murdered, presumably by King George, an elusive, magical, wise Aborigine. Though I don’t think that anybody in the audience is fooled for a second into thinking that it was actually him – we all knew right away that it was Neil Fletcher (David Wenham), the evil foreman and spy for the competitor, King Carney (Bryan Brown). King Carney owns almost all of the Northwestern Territory, except the Ashley Farm and he wants to have that, too.
When Sarah sees Neil hitting his illegitimate, half-Aborigine son (and grandson of King George) Nullah (Brandon Walters), she fires Neil, ensuring his eternal wrath. Unfortunately, now the only person to help her getting the cattle in time to the city to sell them (which in turn would help the economy and the army and probably God) is Drover (Hugh Jackman). Sparks fly, but Drover doesn’t want to commit himself.
The next hour and half is spent herding cattle to the city, killing almost all the cowboys in the process, while Drover, Sarah and Nullah get closer.
Of course they manage to get the cattle there and they beat King Carney and all is well. Drover, Sarah and Nullah now are a happy family.

End of the first film, start of the second. [Well, okay, not really. But it should have been.]

australia-leibovitz-06Trust Annie Leibovitz to make beautiful scenes and people even more beautiful.

As war starts in the country, the relationship between Drover and Sarah starts to be a little worn out – especially since Nullah wants to dreamwalk and Sarah thinks it’s too dangerous and Drover tells her that he has to go.
One day, Nullah’s gone and Sarah wants too look for him, convinced that he isn’t safe. Drover dismisses her concerns and goes on another treck.
In fact, Nullah and his grandfather were caught by the police (acting on orders from Neil, who was crowned King of the city after marrying King Carney’s daughter). Sarah can’t help Nullah being shipped off to the mission, where half-Aborigines are “kept to be educated”. But she promises him to get him back.
Okay, what follows, in short: War, is Sarah dead? War! is Nullah dead? Drover’s back! Drover saves Nullah! Reunion! Reconciliation! Bad Guy! did he shoot Nullah? Drover? No! King George shoots Bad Guy. Happy End.

Epilogue about the Stolen Generations.

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Here’s the thing(s): I don’t know what movie Baz Luhrmann was making, but I’m thinking (because of prologue and epilogue) that it was a movie about the Stolen Generations. Problem is, what I saw were almost three hours of drivel, the first half being a nice lovestory, the second half being only boring. None of it was about the Stolen Generations.
Check out the marketing, if you doubt me. You’ll have a hard time even finding a picture of Brandon Walters, the presumed lead.

Apart from the fact that Luhrmann kind of missed the point in his own movie, I was very, very angry, if not to say outraged at the treatment of Aborigines in the movie. There were four bigger roles for them in the movie – Nullah, King George, Drover’s brother-in-law, Nullah’s mum. And not one of them was a character. They were all the same stereotype of the Noble Savage. And that was a concept en vogue at the end of the 18th century. Didn’t we learn since then? Was there no evolution? Nothing? Are we really still stuck with the notion that people with darker skin are all the same – no matter if the sameness is positive or negative?

I really wasn’t prepared to be confronted with that. [According to deadra, that’s actually a step forward for the people in Australia. Sorry, d, but I don’t agree. But then again, you know more about McLeod’s Australia than I do. :)]

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I left the theatre fuming, made a speech to my dad (talk about preaching to the choir) about Rousseau and how he’s to blame for Karl May and now this and how I thought that we’d left this stereotypes behind. And how I would need an emergency infusion of Moulin Rouge! or Romeo + Juliet or else I would start to hate Baz Luhrmann.

*breathes*

Okay, I’m alright. Don’t touch me.

There are also things I liked about the movie. As usual, Baz Luhrmann is visually stunning, be it in real settings like here:

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Or in more surreal ones, like here:

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Also, the love story is wonderful and sweet. Nicole Kidman (whose surgeon is definitely better than Meg Ryan’s) and Hugh Jackman play very well. Faramir David Wenham is great, unfortunately, he only has a very flat character to work with.

It’s got some very funny scenes (like the car drive through the desert) and some scenes where it tries a little too hard.

The ending is very dramatic, but I think that the original ending was even more so [and honestly, I spent the last 10 minutes or so trying to figure out, where the changes were made (I think I got it nailed down pretty much), which is an interesting excercise for people interested in film].

So, as long as you can ignore my concerns and the ambling aimlessness of the movie, it’s fine. Especially the first half, which is not very original, but at least, it works.

10 thoughts on “Australia (2008)

  1. ähm. das ist jetzt nicht boes gemeint, gell?
    aber vielleicht solltest du dir mal GUTE filme anschaun. dann hast du auch nicht das gefuehl, dass es schon ewig her ist… warum gibst du dir auch schrott wie the women oder aehnliches??
    es ist so schade um dein potential :p

    also. um schnell heilung zu verschaffen, hier soforthilfe:

    (genial, genial, genial)


    (einer der schoensten filme, die ich ueberhaupt in meinem leben gesehen habe. kritik nicht erwuenscht- aber glorifizierung schon. oder so.)

  2. Yes, the movie was too long. Yes, the second half was too slow. Yes, Baz Luhrman’s direction was thematically unfocused. But boy, was this movie a sweeping epic or what? Shot in glorious wide-angle lenses, colored passionately. and composed and lit meticulously. And the chemistry between Mr.Jackman and Ms.Kidman was pretty good too.

    I cannot imagine watching it again though. :)

  3. @Lena:
    Jaja, ich weiß. Ich muss zu meiner Verteidigung sagen, dass ich bei den meisten Schas-Filmen mitgeh. Macht’s aber nur marginal besser.

    Allerdings kann ein schlechter Film auch sehr befriedigend sein. Ist aber bei den meisten Filmen in letzter Zeit nicht der Fall gewesen.

    Die beiden Filme, die du gepostet hast, sind wirklich sehr schön. Danke für die Empfehlungen!

    @baph:
    I completely agree that visually, this movie was a feast and that Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman were really good in it. But the rest sucked and I’m used to better work from Baz Luhrmann.

    Anyway, I can see myself watching the first half again. If I’ve nothing better to do that is.

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