The fascist mythology of Baz Luhrmann’s Australia

November 30, 2008


I saw Baz’s epic ode to the nation recently and I couldn’t help but like it, damn it!

Yes, its a camp epic musical without songs essentially forged around a quasi fascist myth of Aboriginal and European ownership of Australia itself. I found the film irresistible in its desire to forge a blood pact with Anglo Saxon Aussies and original Aboriginal Australians. I found the presentation of this blood and soil mythology deeply moving. The Aboriginal characters were well handled. The young boy, while going into Spielberg territory a bit too much, was a lot of fun with his “cheeky bulls” catch phrases and his emotional adoption by the Aryan Prince and Princess Of Australia, Nic Kidman and Hugh Jackman. The spiritual heart of the film is Uncle King George a connected to the homeland Aboriginal deeply suspicious of white fellas, who seems to be getting the blame for a few nefarious murders committed by David Wenham’s character. Wenham is a great villain, giving us a slimy, conniving, racist back water ne’er do well out to usurp Bryan Brown’s monopoly of the meat packing trade. Brown is great fun as the meat tycoon, smoothly running his scenes and dominating them. Jack Thompson is good too as the drunk accountant with a heart of rum. Look out for a eugenicist Bruce Spence, an aristocratic Barry Otto and a digger John Jarrat, all adding spice to the ensemble cast. Oh, and Ben Mendehlson makes a great come back as a second male lead in Australia as the brave Captain defending Darwin from ‘the dirty Japs’.

The film is also about the Stolen Generation, that paradoxically goes onto support the adoption of an Aboriginal Child by a white couple. Throw in some fun racist characterisation’s like Sing Song (nee Ching Chong), the Chinese laundry dude in middle of the outback, Rolf Harris wobbleboard and you have a humourous non PC experience, sure to upset many.

The attack on Darwin sequence was superb. Its great to see large historical events of import like this recreated on the big screen. Luhrmann’s mixing of this historical incident and crisis (the Darwin attack and the stolen generation) with a love story… and the Wizard of Oz myth is astounding. Baz shows a real talent for mixing plot and myth that make this clearly his most accomplished work to date.

Its all made with true passion and dedication by all involved. The romance, while a little corny, soon wins you over. Some cynics have dismissed it as fascist kitsch, but failed to see its ontological dimensions of nostalgia and myth founding resonance.

Its not too long either at 2 hour and 40 minutes. Its an epic like Gone with the Wind or the more recent There Will Be Blood, just done in Baz Luhrmann’s inimitable semi-camp style.

The film is beautifully shot and is truly epic. Its a shame it cost so much, but it works! It may not perform as expected at the B.0 due to its odd nature and the over hyped ad campaign it has received, but that’s the way the way the cookie crumbles.

The CGI is a bit over used but these are minor issues. Luhrmann has delivered nothing less than a work of art bonding the ownership of Australia to Aboriginals and Europeans, signed in cinematic blood. In fact the film will stand as an artifact in this actual myth of reconciliation for years to come.

As the young boy goes off for his dreaming with his cool Uncle King George you can’t help but be moved. The revised ending works well and is a real crowd pleaser with a brave Aboriginal pal of Hugh Jackman’s fighting and shooting at Japs and sacrificing himself, as they come to murder the innocent orphans.

This film has major political and cultural significance for this country and due to its audacity and myth making agenda its is bound to be rejected by some. Do not reject it! As I’m afraid some of this actual country, at least a period of it, is captured here in all its nationalistic flamboyance and truly epic power. “Australia” is Australia, a least a part of it!

4 Responses to “The fascist mythology of Baz Luhrmann’s Australia”

  1. As a cinephile, I generally find myself averse to both blockbusters and epics and went into the cinema with low expectations. For reasons I mention here, I felt this film has a significance which you also acknowledge. I think everyone should go and see it. I’m taking my 8-year old to see it this weekend and I’m sure he’ll love it, particularly from the perspective of the aboriginal boy, Nullah.

  2. richard777 said

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for commenting. I enjoy your Melbourne Film blog too!

    It seems we are on the same page about Baz’s Australia. Good stuff. Your right Luhrmann is trying to do something grand on a broad scale and when was the last time someone did something like that in Australian cinema! I admire his guts.

    …and salute him as do you.



  3. Greg Maxwell said

    There is no “stolen generation”. There never was. It was a creation of a bunch of hand-wringing liberals and opportunistic aboriginal carpetbaggers.
    Baz Luhrmann is just another faggy, undeserving sydney-sider being glad handed and back clapped into a position of privilege by a film community with a dearth of any commercial or filmic talent. He shoulda stuck to gay musicals.

  4. It was hot and dusty during filming in one of the world’s most remote locations. But Nicole Kidman says the prospect of a smooch with Hugh Jackman eased the troubles of working on the Outback romance, ‘Australia.’

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