Question: How Does Peter Weir’s Film Gallipoli Embody A Sense Of Australian Nationalism, And In Turn, Both Create And Reinforce A Mythic Australia?

2082 words - 8 pages

Peter Weir’s 1981 film Gallipoli can in every sense of the phrase be called an ‘Australian classic’. The impact and effect this film has had upon the psyche and perspective of several generations of Australians has been significant. Whilst it can be argued that every Australian is aware of the ANZAC legend, and the events that occurred on the Turkish beaches in 1915, Weir’s film encapsulates and embodies a cultural myth which is now propagated as fact and embraced as part of the contemporary Australian identity. The film projects a sense of Australian nationalism that grew out of the 1970’s, and focuses on what it ‘means’ to be an Australian in a post-colonial country. In this way Gallipoli embodies a sense of ‘Australian-ness’ through the depiction of mateship and through the stark contrast of Australia to Britain. A sense of the mythic Australia is further projected through the cinematic portrayal of the outback, and the way in which Australia is presented in isolation from the rest of the world. These features combined create not only a sense of nationalism, but also a mythology stemming from the ANZAC legend as depicted within the film.

Gallipoli was released in 1981, developed and filmed in the post-Robert Menzies, post-Vietnam War period when Australia sought to reconsider and artistically represent its post-colonial tension. In a reflection of anxiety about Australia’s so-called national identity, the film is deeply rooted in the local mythology of the nation, and “is redolent with the overt rhetoric of nationalism. The film emerges from a historical period of Australian film-making when funding was newly available for films that dealt with explicitly Australian content and themes”. Gallipoli embodies and projects a now prominent Australian nationalism, by “offering a re-enactment of events already invested with national significance” (Raynor 110). In this way, it can be argued that Gallipoli would have always been a significant film for Australians, and yet because of when it was created and the subject matter of the film, the impact upon the mythicized Australia was all the more prominent. In the film, the “projections of a mythicized essentialist Australian image” (Freebury 116) glorify a romantic version of national history. Whilst the film’s title suggests a central focus on the battle field, Gallipoli is not primarily about war- in fact over three quarters of the film is set in either Australia or Egypt, away from the place which gives the film its name. Weir himself noted that Gallipoli centered more on an idea than on historicity, reinforced by many critics, in that “Weir’s Gallipoli seemed so uncritical of the central tenets of the ANZAC legend that it was roundly condemned for reinforcing a static, outdated and deeply conservative folk myth” (MacLeod 65). The film has been compared to the 1915 propaganda film Hero of the Dardanelles in that both are ideologically identical, despite the 65 year difference between their...

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