Race and Representation in the Film Jedda
Jedda, Australia’s first colour film, created in 1955 by Charles Chauvel deals with an Aboriginal child adopted by a white grazing family. As she grows up, Jedda is tempted more and more to return to her people. Seduced by the wild Marbuck, she partakes in the film's tragedy, played out against a spectacular landscape. This essay seeks to discuss the representations of the Australian landscape as portrayed in the film Jedda, highlighting the use of filmic techniques in these representations.
One of the first representations encountered in the film Jedda is the portrayal of Australia as a tourist destination in the exposition of the film. This glorified view of the landscape is conveyed to the audience through the use of bold visual images and birds eye camera angels. The visual images, as well as portraying Australia as a tourist destination, also adopt the romanticised Hollywood view of the landscape that many American westerns use to emphasise their appeal to an audience of European background. An example of this romanticised view can be seen in the incorporation of camera shots of landscapes such as rolling planes of dry grassy land, and areas of steep rocky hillsides. This style of filming has been incorporated into the exposition to highlight the drama, beauty and primeval nature of the landscape, and to entice the audience into continuing to watch the film. The films documentary-like voice-over also contributes to the emphasis on the beauty of the landscape. It is Joe who – in very correct BBC narration tones – first introduces himself as ‘the half-cast son of an Afghan teamster and an Aboriginal woman’ and then continues on to introduce situations in the film and comment on Jedda’s predicament. The ‘tourist destination’ portrayal of the landscape is highly emphasised in Joe’s narration. This depiction of Australia as a natural, dramatic landscape is continued throughout the film, with several other settings and landscapes showing a direct link with this first representation.
The portrayal of Australia as a ancient, dramatic, and somewhat spiritual landscape, is not only shown in the exposition, but also in many landscapes to follow, one of these being the gorges encountered by Jedda and Marbuck towards the end of the film. This landscape was not only used as a representation of beauty, drama and the primeval nature of Australia, but also to create a sense of awe and wonder at the mysterious, almost supernatural qualities of this particular setting. To achieve this feeling of wonder, Chauvel has used extreme long shots to his advantage, placing Marbuck and Jedda against the towering background of high, rocky gorges, thus making them...