Archive | March, 2011

This is Australia: Gallipoli (Weir, 1981) and Nationalism

31 Mar

        (Source)                                 (Source)

CONCEPT ANALYSIS: Nationalism and Gallipoli (Peter Weir, 1981)

The following is a concept analysis of nationalism, designed to define this idea in the context of Australian national identity and analyse its representation and projection in the Australian film, Gallipoli (Peter Weir, 1981).

Gallipoli is a compelling fictional story of friendship and adventure between two Australian soldiers, Archy Hamilton (Mark Lee) and Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson), travelling from the Western Australian outback to the deserts of Egypt to Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915. Michael Bodey (in Hocking(eds.), 2006), as well as other film critics and historians, believe that ‘Gallipoli is a truly grand Australian film. A searing national character study[…]’ (p.104).

Gallipoli embodies and projects Australian nationalism by ‘offer[ing] [a] re-enactment of events already invested with national significance’ (Raynor,2000, p.110). All Australians know of Gallipoli and the ANZAC myth/legend. The film celebrates Australia’s essential culture, qualities and values as embodied by the battle of Gallipoli and the consequent ANZAC myth/legend.

What is meant by (Australian) Nationalism? Anthony D. Smith (2001) outlines his five meanings of nationalism as follows:

  1. The process of formation, or growth, of nations
  2. A sentiment or consciousness of belonging to the nation
  3. A language and symbolism of the nation
  4. The social and political movement on behalf of the nation
  5. The doctrine and/or ideology of nation, both general and particular (p.7)

As Smith’s definitions clearly show, there are different meanings of nationalism that tend to overlap and reveal common themes. The main theme is an overriding concern with the nation. Nationalism seeks to achieve national autonomy, national unity and national identity (Smith,2001, p.9).

Every nation’s defining features are different. Australia’s idea of nationalism is centred on a post-British, unified country, and how we define ourselves in terms of unique and valued qualities. The motif of the harsh outback and landscape is also key to our national identity, as is our desire to distance ourselves from Britain and reassess (and sometimes rewrite) our history (Freebury,1987, p.43).

The battle of Gallipoli, as Jane Freebury writes, was ‘an episode in Australia’s history which has become associated with the birth of nationhood’ (1987, p.44). This true unification of the Australian nation, fourteen years after Federation in 1901, is the focus of Weir’s film. However, Gallipoli is not essentially about or centred on war. The majority of the film, in fact, follows Archy and Frank through Western Australia and Egypt. But this is done purposefully. Weir uses an extended period of time to construct the kind of valued Australian character found in ANZAC soldiers.

Gallipoli then is focused on the quality of the men who fought and died, celebrating ultimately national ideology. The film largely centred on what is intrinsically Australian – for example; mateship, endurance, the battler image, anti-authoritarian, anti-British, the outback, competitive spirit, courage, selflessness and a ‘nationalistic belief in an as yet unrealised potential’ (Freebury,1987, p.45).

Weir’s focus then is on dramatising and examining elements popularly associated with national character (McFarlane in Murray(eds.), 1993, p.74) through cinematic techniques, visual symbolism and narrative devices. He portrays the spirit of Australia through the lives of two typical Australians; Archy the bushman, and Frank, the urban larrikin. The characterisation of these protagonists is exceptional and allows them to both symbolically embody perceptions and interpretations of the ANZAC legend/myth (Raynor,2000, p.113).

Archy, is the first of the two introduced to the audience. He is a bushman of the outback, an athletic sprinter, who seems to beat adversity in running races. Frank on the other hand, is an urban dweller and more wise than Archy in certain ways (he forges birth certificates, jumps trains) (Rattigan,1991, p.137). They both embody accepted Australian characters, but with an emphasis on Archy being the more ‘pure’ Australian (Rattigan,1991).

Mates: Archy & Frank (screen shot)

Australian concepts of loyalty and mateship are explored through the powerful relationship between Archy and Frank. Their mateship, a nationalistic feature in Australia, is cemented when they ‘navigate’ across the vast desert to reach Perth. The cinematography of these scenes is amazing. It captures the landscape, as a feature of national identity, but also as a transformative agent of the Australian spirit; a place where boys and men endure adversity and hardship, and ultimately grow into the strong and ideal Australian bushman.

Another very Australian character quality, emphasised in Gallipoli is competitive spirit. Competition plays a key role in developing the friendship and emergent mateship of Archy and Frank, who verse each other in rural running races. Other examples of Australian competitive spirit are borderless, with the football played in the deserts of Cairo (Western Australians v Victorians) and the constant haggling of prices with Egyptian traders (McMahonAndQuin,1990, p.117).

The battle of Gallipoli also represents a national development, of stepping away from Britain, and towards Australia as a nation. While still under the umbrella of the British Commonwealth, the film highlights the anti-authoritarian/anti-British sentiments felt by Australian soldiers. When the Australian soldiers move through the traders in Cairo, they spot British officers and take it in their stride to disrespect and imitate their formal manner. Another example is the description of the British sipping tea on the beach, while Australians sacrifice their lives going over the top (McMahonAndQuin,1990, p.117).

The final scene of Gallipoli is where the film really exemplifies Australian national character. Weir has chosen to remember the courage and selflessness of the ANZACs, epitomised by Archy’s final act (of mateship). Archy encapsulates what it means to be Australian when he knowingly runs towards certain death – dying for his country, but more importantly, for his mate, Frank.

Archy’s final act (screen shot)

Australian audiences responded to Gallipoli’s celebration of national identity (Freebury,1987, p.44). ‘Film, […] is the most powerful medium for projecting a “national identity”’ (Freebury,1987, p.43). Australians need to ‘see’ themselves in order to form a ‘national identity’. From this analysis one can see how nationalism is represented and projected in the film Gallipoli, a prime example of how Australian cinema can add to the resurgence of Australian nationalism.  

 ~

Bibliography: (Harvard, In-text)

Bodey, M 2006, ‘Gallipoli’, in Hocking, S (eds.) 2006, 100 Greatest Films of Australian Cinema, Scribal Publishing, Richmond (VIC), p. 104.

Freebury, J 1987, ‘Screening Australia: Gallipoli – a study of nationalism on film’, Media Information Australia.

McFarlane, B 1993, ‘Gallipoli’, in Murray, S (eds.) 1993, Australian Film: 1978-1992 – A survey of theatrical feature, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, p.74.

McMahon, B and Quin, R 1990, Australian Images, Science Press, Marrickville (NSW).

Rattigan, N 1991 ‘Gallipoli’ in Images of Australia, SMU Press, p.135-138

Raynor, J 2000, Contemporary Australian Cinema: An Introduction, Manchester University Press, Manchester.

Smith, A D 2001, Nationalism: theory, ideology, history, Wiley-Blackwell, Great Britain.

Filmography:

Gallipoli (Peter Weir, 1981).

By: Megan Walford, z3291268, ARTS2062

Word count: 980

War on the Fish’n’Chip Shop Floor

30 Mar

FILM REVIEW: Take Away (Marc Gracie, 2003)

‘serving up greed, revenge…and chips’

Take Away (Marc Gracie, 2003) is an Australian comedy, starring Vince Colosimo, Stephen Curry, Rose Byrne and Nathan Phillips. The plot centres on Tony Stilano (Colosimo) and Trev Spackneys (Curry), two bitter enemies who own and run rival fish and chips shops’ on the same quiet suburban Melbourne shopping strip. Tony, owner of ‘Tony’s Fish and Chippery’, is an Italian-Australian with high standards and a clean business practice. The complete opposite of Tony is Trev, owner of ‘Trev’s Fish and Chips’. He is a typical Australian character, the loveable bloke with a careless attitude and unprofessional work practice.

The two, fierce competitors, who have been trying to shut each other down since establishment, are forced, reluctantly, to work together when a multinational fast food chain, Burgies Burgers (laughably similar to McDonald’s), opens an outlet next to Tony’s, threatening both Tony and Trev’s take away businesses. The power of the Burgies chain is realised by Trev, when he states: ‘When that Burgies opens up down the street, this place is stuffed’. Nonetheless, Tony and Trev, backed by community support, do not give up and execute a ‘brilliant’ revenge plot against the Burgies outlet that is unexpected, slightly dramatic, and far-fetched, but completely likeable and hilarious at the same time. Overall, it is a light-hearted and heart-warmingly entertaining tale about the little guys, constantly battling their own differences, and taking on a big corporation.   

    

The film surrounds a true Australian battle of the underdog, the little guy versus a global company, with comedy, a traitor and a potential romance thrown in. Yes, this ‘David and Goliath’-style plot has been at the centre of other Australian films, such as The Castle (Rob Sitch, 1997) (in which Stephen Curry also stars). However, Take Away is not unoriginal, but a unique film that stands alone in its comedic portrayal of the battle between local and global forces.

Although some believe Australians don’t do the comedy genre too well, I believe Take Away is ingenious. It is satirical in nature, sending up nearly everything in the film, from the stereotypical Aussie versus the multicultural Australian, to the fast food chain, Burgies.  As Australians, we know how to laugh at ourselves, and wouldn’t put it past ourselves to do something completely ridiculous to prove a point (i.e. the revenge plot).

What I found really worked for this film was its characterisation, especially of Tony and Trev, and the way it introduced these rivals to the audience. The relationship between Tony and Trev is one of competition. When Tony hires his cousin, Sonja (Rose Byrne), as a trainee manager, Trev hires a trainee manager as well, Dave (Nathan Phillips), from Joblink. Every time they meet they are trying to outdo each other, their constant banter (‘Bullshit’, ’Bullshit you!’) is hilarious and believable.

Competitors: Trev & Tony (Screen Shot)

Vince Colosimo and Stephen Curry, do a brilliant job at portraying Tony and Trev respectively. Colosimo, who shined as Frank in The Wog Boy (Aleksi Vellis, 2000), realistically portrays multicultural Tony. His accent gives away Tony’s ethnic background, but the words that come out of his mouth are full of Australian idioms (e.g. “Competition is so shit-house”).

Curry, as the typical Australian slacker Trev, is most famous (pre-Take Away) for his role as Dale Kerrigan in the Australian classic, The Castle (Sitch, 1997). Trev has been criticised for being an over exaggerated version of the Australia character. However, I find this is key to the narrative of juxtaposing Tony and Trev. Trev’s vocabulary is full of slang, (‘corker’, ‘bloody ripper’), which provides the audience with much amusement.

The opening scenes of Tony and Trev set up and emphasise their inherent differences, by revealing their contrasting morning routines. The scenes are truly brilliant.

Tony is depicted as a organised, well-groomed espresso-drinker. He listens to Anthony Robbins’ motivation tapes and prepares fresh, high quality food. He has a system for everything; ‘drink fridge can rotation’, ‘lemon wedge preparation’ and ‘serviette folding’, just to name a few .

Trev, however, wakes up under an iconic vegemite jar doona cover in a cluttered, messy room. He brushes his teeth with his finger, makes chips out of dirty potatoes and flings his used teabag at the ceiling, adding to the others already dangling above his head. He has a complete disregard for hygiene and safe-work practices.

As the two open up their respective fish and chip shops for the day, we see immaculate Tony in his simple black uniform, and in contrast, laid-back Trev in an Aerosmith band t-shirt, trackies and Dunlop runners. It epitomises how opposite the two are and helps cement the difficulty they would have joining forces to beat Burgies.

         

What I found most disappointing about the film was aspects of the cinematography. While majority of the film was shot well, I felt it lacked any real setting shots of the local area. The audience can tell its set in Melbourne (from the car number plates, and the barely visible “Alphington” suburb sign), but not with absolute assurance. I believe more setting shots in this film would have helped emphasise and develop the notion of ‘community’, that is an important, ever-present component of the narrative. Contrastingly, when Tony and Trev fly to Sydney to confront the Burgies CEO (John Howard), the setting shots are almost like tourism commercials, as the camera sweeps over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in an aerial shot. This of course could be seen as the difference between the local, grass roots Melbourne community and the superficial, busy Sydney city. 

     

The film also provides great social commentary on the fast-food industry. The Burgies workplace is seen as a stressful environment, staffing children barely legally allowed to work (one front counter staffer looks about 10 years old). The fast food chain brainwashes children and adults alike with competitions, giveaways, toys and catchy advertising campaigns (sound familiar?).

Take Away pokes fun at almost everything represented in the film; stereotypical characters and the fast food industry. I believe Take Away is a feel good, easy entertainment film that most Australians can relate to.

Truly enjoyable.

Word Count: 985

By: Megan Walford, z3291268

ARTS2062, 2011 !

Filmography:

Take Away (Gracie, 2003)

The Castle (Sitch, 1997)

The Wog Boy (Vellis, 2000)

**All images are screen shots from the DVD, and are used for non-commerical, purely educational purposes**

“Griff the Invisible” (2011)

16 Mar

This post really doesnt relate to anything specific in the uni course I’m doing, except that it falls under the category of Australian Cinema.

Just wanted to say:

I REALLY WANT TO GO AND SEE Griff the Invisible ! Besides that fact that Ryan Kwanten is the lead, this movie looks enjoyable and quirky !

(Now when will i find the time to get to the movies and see it ? ) Screening Times !

-Megan

 

Hello world!

1 Mar

In traditional blog style, my first post is introductory.

Hi, My name is Megan ! And I’m in my third year of a B Arts (Media, Culture, Technology/History) degree at UNSW !

This purpose of this specific blog is as a communication and research tool for one of my university courses this semester – the focus being (you guessed it!): Australian Cinema (Film) and Television.

Australian Cinema and Television (like many other countries’ cinema’s) is unique. Whether we realise it or not, Australian Cinema and Television Programs often reflect and depict concerns and themes that are (or have recently become) central to the ‘Australian Narrative/s’.

Course Description from the course outline:

This subject provides a broad overview of the themes, contexts and myths that structure contemporary Australian Cinema and Television by examining the production, techniques and funding of Australian film and television.

There will be more information about the purpose of this blog, and some links to other sites, on the ‘ABOUT’ page.

Enjoy !

(And please comment with relevant opinions and links concerning Australian Cinema and Television; feedback is accepted and appreciated)

Australia: The Land Down Under 🙂