Representation of Landscape in Australian Cinema
The Australian landscape has been represented in diverse ways in Australian cinema. In one way, it is seen as a free desert space, where no boundaries exist and people are free to explore their true and real identities. On the other hand, more of the harshness is emphasized daring only the brave to explore. It is represented as an area where only the brave dare to venture and only those who are willing and strong will survive. At the same time, the audience cannot help but notice the beauty of the landscape. This paradox of beauty and harshness is a feature that can only be captured on the Australian landscape. The freedom created by the space contrasts with the suburban closed life and containment, where the only form of freedom visible seems to be in the backyard or on the city streets. Landscape representation in Australian cinema questions suburban notions of containment through its conflicting duality of progress and humanity
Over the years, Australian filmmakers have captured different elements of the landscape. They have represented the landscape from different perspectives. The landscape means different things to the characters involved (Zielinski 99). While in the outback, people have the chance to think over their lives, get new experiences, meet new people, and get a different perspective of the world. They take advantage of the space, which is free from the constant distractions in the suburbs and city life. They take advantage of the time, which seems unlimited in the wild desert. While in the outback, people tend to forget the initial struggles they were dealing with prior to their arrival. The dangers and foreign nature of the new landscape makes the problems they were facing seem trivial. They take advantage of the space and the freedom to think and meditate on their lives and other life issues.
The Australian landscape is diverse and this adds to its beauty. One can find different varieties of landscape, ranging from deserts and forests to fields and mountains. It contains beaches, hills, and valleys. This diversity gives the filmmakers a choice in determining the kind of landscape to use. It also enables them to create different genres of movies in the area. They are only limited by their creative ability. The landscape provides different scenic backgrounds from that provided in the suburbia. Filmmakers take advantage of its wide and spatial nature. In the movie Red Dog, the filmmakers captured the unlimited nature of the landscape through Red Dog and his eventual master John. The people in the community recognize Red Dog because he does not belong to any person in particular. He traverses the landscape and he has helped to bring the community together by interacting with them (Balgrove 19). Red Dog captures the beauty of the landscape by showing different elements ranging from the Australian coast and beaches to the Pilbara desert (Balgrove 21).
The landscape represents different ideals to the people who experience it. Every person who visits the landscape recognizes something within himself. This self-realization makes people change their thinking patterns. They think about issues and they make decisions differently. It tests their moral qualities and intellectual. Through this, they are able to recognize and make clear distinctions between good and evil (Biber 30). In Crocodile Dundee, Sue discovers what she needs in life when she meets the crocodile hunter. The time that Sue spends in the outback makes her realize the things that are a priority in life. She gets a different perspective in life when she lives in the wild and interacts with the people there. The self-realization she gets in the end benefits her, as she is able to avoid making costly mistakes.
Sue’s decision to get married to Richard would have a mistake but she realizes this in time. She gains new level of awareness and knowledge about herself and others around her, which she could not have gained had she not ventured in the wild landscape. She also learns that she might not be as independent as the thinks and that she lacks knowledge concerning the affairs of the wild landscape. This is clear, as she has to depend on Dundee for her protection. She dares to venture out alone and ends up being attacked by a crocodile. Dundee saves her and the experience makes her change how she views herself, Dundee, and the wild.
In Red Dog, John comes to a self-realization. He realizes that he needs to change his life for the better after he has spent some time in the outback. He changes his life and he even thinks of starting his own family. In the The Last Days of Chez Nous, Beth comes to self-realization after the trip to the outback. She realizes that she does not have to live her life trying to please the men in her life. She also becomes aware of the most important things in her life and she recognizes that she does not have to depend on men. Muriel learns many lessons by spending time away from the suburbia. She becomes aware of the true nature of the people she regards as friends. She realizes that marriage is not she has imagined it to be all this time. Her recognition of the value of friendship makes her realize the mistake she has made by abandoning her friend when she needed her most.
The controlling and suppressive nature of the suburbia is seen in Muriel’s Wedding. Muriel and her mother live in a restrictive environment. The only way they can solve their problem is by choosing to leave the suburbs (Simpson 31). Muriel’s father is domineering and dominating. He puts down and discourages his children and his wife. He calls his children useless and he does not see their value and worth. He is especially critical of Muriel, and he degrades her in front of strangers. He is a man who cannot stand up for his own family although he claims to represent the interest of the townspeople. He does not give them the space they need to have a better life. Muriel can only dream of the life she wants and she is aware that she will not have it as long as she lives there.
Muriel’s decision to escape from her home transforms her and she discovers another side of life. She gets to experience some of the fantasies she has had for a long time. She is happy for a while. She meets a real friend and people who consider her important. She laughs and she haves fun (Wignall 34). She was not able to do this while she was in the suburbs. She was always worried and sad. She spent her days listening to music in her room and imagining great future possibilities. Her leaving the suburbia leads her to self-realization. She decides to live her life according to her terms. She decides that she will not become like her father. She only realizes this after she departs from the life she knew in the suburbs. The time spent away benefits her. She is able to avoid making a mistake that would have led her to her old lifestyle. Her mother does not have the same opportunity. She is part of the suburbia and she cannot leave (Simpson 32). She sees death as her only liberation and she ends up committing suicide.
In The Last Days of Chez Nous, Beth realizes that she needs to get away from home in an effort to remake the relationship with her father. She is aware of the restrictive nature of the suburban life. It is full of distractions, which are a hindrance to any meaningful progress. Her husband does not support her vision and dreams. He tells her that she is too positive about life when she suggests something. Her efforts to include him more in her life do not go well because it is clear that he does not want to be part of her life any more. This hinders Beth from making meaningful progress in her career and marriage. The suburbia controls her in terms of deciding her emotions. It has suppressed her and created barriers that have prevented her from making meaningful developments. She decides to take a trip with her father to the outback. The landscape provides the space and freedom that the two of them need. Beth hopes that the time they spend together will help mend their relationship and make it stronger.
The suburbia has a way of emphasizing the negative characters of people, whether such negatives are imagined or believed. People tend to see and focus on their shortcomings and they do not take the time to appreciate what is best about them. Because of this, they tend to be more depressed about life’s issues. They are more critical of themselves and this is made worse by the criticism they receive from other people. Muriel never realizes her full potential because she always surrounded by negative talk that discourages and puts her down. She longs for acceptance to the extent of befriending those who are always humiliating her.
The fact that Muriel decides to escape shows that she recognizes that there is something special within her or that she desires a life that is more meaningful. However, she cannot realize this until she comes out of the negative environment. Her father discourages her constantly and she does not see any value in her. Her mother is a discouraged woman, who seems to be tired of life. She is oblivious to what goes on around her. She has to put up with a domineering husband and children who lack ambition in life. Her children are lazy and they spend their days fantasizing or watching television. Such closed atmosphere makes Muriel and her mother focus more on the problems they have and the issues they have to deal with. It denies them the liberty they need to create a positive life for themselves. They only know a negative world.
In The Last Days of Chez Nous, Beth is a hardworking author, wife, and mother. She is a successful author but she does not translate the same success to her life. She tends to blame herself for the things that are wrong in her life. Her relationship with her husband has deteriorated and she thinks that it is her fault. She feels unloved and she appears moody most of the times. Her husband makes her feel unlovable because of the distance he has created between them. However, she still has some hope in life and she is willing to hold on to it however small it might be. She considers it possible to have a good relationship with her father in his last days. This is despite the fact that her father criticizes her constantly. Beth lives in a world where people seem to be intimidated by her success and they are constantly doing things to bring her down or to make her feel bad because of the success she has achieved. She does not receive any form of support from her father, sister, or husband and this adds to the initial discouragement she feels in life.
The landscape provides a platform for progress. Once various characters come to self-realization, they cannot help but change their lives for the better. Muriel’s father is a politician who constantly communicates the message that no one can stop progress. However, he ends up creating a kind of life for his family in which no one is able to progress. However, this is not the case with Muriel, as she manages to move out of his influence for a while. By doing this, she is able to progress with her life. In The Last Days of Chez Nous, Beth makes progress in her life after her trip to the outback. She feels a sense of liberation when her husband leaves her. Before the trip, the awareness of her husband’s infidelity and her sister’s betrayal would have depressed her. However, her situation changes when she takes a trip with her father.
John’s travels in Red Dog depict a restless man who has not found any need to settle down in his life. His constant traveling from place to place is not a sign of progress. Rather, it shows discontent with his life. He has not yet found a place where he can settle and call home. However, this belief changes when he visits the Australian outback in Dampier. He meets Red Dog and the two develop a close friendship. At the same time, he meets Nancy and he plans to settle down with her. It is clear that John sees something more in the outback. He does not focus on the harshness that some of the people see. Instead, he sees possibilities and opportunities. The landscape gives him a sense of peace he has never experienced before in his constant traveling. It is a sign of reassurance that he belongs.
In many ways, the landscape makes people realize that they need each other for support. It makes them realize the importance and value of humanity. This is especially clear in Red Dog. The people in the area form a community and they get a chance to share stories and the experiences they have had. They unite when they meet in the pub. They know each other and they form a community (Bartlett 19-24). Dundee realizes the different values that exist in the wild and the city. He is not used to seeing many people and he gets some form of culture shock when he goes to the city. In the city, people do not care for each other and they have no time to stop for greetings. They do not respond positively to Dundee when he greets them. Dundee cherishes the idea of meeting many people in the streets. In the wild, he rarely encounters people.
Filmmakers have taken advantage of the diverse Australian landscape to add scenery and beauty to their movies. They relish the freedom they get to advance their creative abilities in the landscape. The Australian landscape is different from the suburbia. It offers people the freedom and space they need. People use it to think about their lives. The isolation and lack of destruction gives them the chance to make hard decisions concerning their lives. They feel liberated and they are able to progress with their lives. The vastness and harsh realities that people face makes them realize the importance of support and value. They tend to value each other more. This contrasts with the suburbia where people are individualized and they are not overly concerned with each other. The suburbia also restricts individuals by enclosing them in a world, thereby denying them the freedom they need.
Bartlett, Myke. “Shaggy Dog Stories and Red Dirt Resilience.” Metro Magazine 2011:19-24
Biber, Katherine. “The Threshold Moment: Masculinity at Home and on the Road in Australian Cinema.” LIMINA 7 (2001): 26-43. Print
Blagrove, Anna. “Red Dog: The Pilbara Wanderer.” Coolabah 11 (2013): 19-24. Print
Crocodile Dundee. Dir. Peter Faiman. Perf. Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski. Rimfire Films, 1986. Film
Harper, Graeme and Jonathan, Rayner R. Cinema and Landscape. Chicago, IL: Intellect Books, 2010. Print
Muriel’s Wedding. Dir. P. J. Hogan. Perf. Toni Collette, Rachael Griffiths, Bill Hunter and Sophie Lee. Miramax Films, 1994. Film
Red Dog. Dir. Kriv Stenders. Perf. Koko, Josh Lucas, Rachael Taylor and John Batchelor. Roadshow Film Distributors, 2011. Film
The Last Days of Chez Nous. Dir. Gillian Armstrong. Perf. Lisa Harrow, Bruno Ganz, Kerry Fox and Miranda Otto. Fine Line Features, 1992. Film
Simpson, Catherine. “Suburban Subversions: Women’s Negotiation of Suburban Space in Australian Cinema.” Metro Magazine 1999: 24-32
Wignall, Louise. “The Extraordinary in the ordinary: P.J. Hogan Talks about “Muriel’s Wedding.” Metro Magazine 1994: 31-35. Print
Zielinski, Andrew. “Landscape Spaces in the Outback.” Screen Education 43 (206): 97-103. Print