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'Australia' Is Majestic
A grand adventure big enough to for the strangely beautiful continent it depicts so well
Nicolas van der Leek (Nick)     Print Article 
Published 2008-12-06 12:26 (KST)   

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Wow! Director Baz Luhrman's beautifully authentic thrilling adventure is what movies were once about. Why do we watch movies after all? To be moved. To experience something...out of the ordinary. "Australia" is magnificent, and its message majestic.

Nullah (Brandon Walters) steals the show in 'Australia'
©2008 20th Century Fox
From the very first scene, the cinematography immediately transports the viewer into a a dry and dusty world few have ever seen in such gritty, widescreen detail. Our guide throughout is a little aboriginal boy, Nullah, played with tremendous charm, wit and natural instinct by 13 year old Brandon Walters. Nullah, with his beautiful Earthy features, and eyes like dark wet pebbles, steals the show. But then, the initial scrawl is dedicated to the "Lost Generation," a generation of mixed race Australians whose plight Nullah epitomises.

Transformation

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Through Nullah, the other characters are forced to confront and transform themselves. This is conveyed just as authentically, cruelly and sharply, as the landscape - which also undergoes transformation.

Nicole Kidman describes "Australia" as "the film I wanted to make since I was a little girl". In her third collaboration with the Moulin Rouge director, Kidman admitted the shooting was gruelling, but worth it. "I've seen more of this country during the making of this film than I had in the 30 years that I lived here," she says. Kidman plays an uptight British aristocrat, Lady Sarah Ashley, who initially seems to love little else besides horses.

Hugh Jackman (Wolverine from "X-Men") plays "The Drover", a hard as nails free spirit who "drives" cattle and horses across the Outback. Jackman brings great grit and gusto to the flick. "The longer you spend here, the more [the vastness and diversity] seeps in. It's very powerful and humbling at the same time," he explains. Although The Drover is connected to the plight of the Aborigines, and understands their ways and the wild, he is otherwise disconnected.

Jackman is seen throughout the flick on horseback, riding in the style of stockmen, something that didn't come easily. He confesses that riding "took nine months to enjoy. I'm absolutely hooked for life [on riding] now," he enthuses.

While The Drover and Lady Ashley share a passion for horses, it is Nullah who challenges them to a deeper understanding not only of themselves, but of what it means to be Australian.

The Outback makes for a vast and diverse canvas for a beautiful story.
©2008 20th Century Fox
The Sacred and the Profane

David Wenham is Neil Fletcher, the enterprising villain of the story. The audience will remember him as the one-eyed Spartan in 300, and the luckless Faramir in Lord of the Rings. Wenham does well to incite the ire of the audience, and by the end it is difficult not to despite him entirely.

Another incredibly performance is that of David Gulpilil (King George), who plays Nullah's Aborginal ancestor. King George makes numerous appearances in high places, clad in mud, stoking fires, lurking on the periphery in an attempt to play guardian to his grandson. It is especially through this wild character that Luhrman bestows a deep sense of authenticity.

The cattle drive in the second part of the story is sheer adventure. Watch out for a jaw dropping spectacle that ought to leave you in tears.

Trilogy

At the conclusion of the second part, Luhrman could quite easily have wrapped up the flick and sent everyone home. The third part ushers in the war, and by then choked up members of the audience may be crawling to the exit points in order not to be overcome by further emotion. This is the only disagreeable aspect of the film, it stretches the running time to a gruelling 165 minutes.

Luhrman might have considered doing Australia as a Trilogy. Nevertheless, the uninitiated will discover what a "Walkabout" is all about (it's quite a big deal), the importance of "dreaming" and the cultural significance of "telling stories."

The magic of "Australia" is it captures something beyond the pioneering spirit of those days. It captures the pioneering spirit of film, once upon a time. And it captures the pioneering spirit of childhood.

Yes, there is something of the inner child that "Australia" evokes, thanks to the confluence of strange creatures and random characters, thanks to the dry landscape almost impossible to decipher in places. The vast emptiness seems to cry out.

It is through Nullah's simple profundities that we begin to revisit some of those simple, powerful, and beautiful things all of us knew as children. That wherever it is that we walk, all of this belongs to all of us, and to none of us.

Against the sheer backdrop of the story, we learn to have the courage to find ourselves. This above all makes it a tremendously poignant and important film.

9/10

For more on the writer visit www.nickvanderleek.com

©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Nicolas van der Leek

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