The Last Wave (1977)

Synopsis:

In Sydney, Australia, a lawyer (Richard Chamberlain, The Thorn Birds) decides to defend a group of local Aborigines accused of murder. As he immerses himself in the case, the lawyer begins to experience a series of apocalyptic visions.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Dream is a shadow of something real.”

Before he started making glossy mainstream dramas in the 1980s, filmmaker Peter Weir made a series of low-budget thrillers in his native Australia. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) is perhaps the most popular and revered of those films, but I’ve always had a soft spot for The Last Wave (aka Black Rain), a moody and eerie piece.

I remember being a tad confused the first time I watched the movie. Watching The Last Wave a second time made me appreciate it a lot more. Director Weir constantly teases you with an assortment of nightmarish images and sounds, making for an absorbing viewing experience. I also liked how the movie turns frighteningly scary at a drop of a hat — a sense of dread hovers over the entire film like a dark cloud.

Written by Tony Morphett, Petru Popescu and Weir, The Last Wave is constructed like a puzzle, and it’s fun to try to figure out how the pieces fit together. Ambivalence can be frustrating when handled poorly, but Weir’s caginess is playful and organic, thus the film provides the viewer with a trip into the unknown. It sometimes feels like an extended episode of the Twilight Zone TV series, I mean it as a compliment.

Is the lawyer a psychic who doesn’t understand his gift? Is he simply going insane? It really doesn’t matter — it’s all about the journey, not the dénouement. I have my own theories, but I think it’s best for viewers to draw their own conclusions.

Richard Chamberlain gives a beautifully nuanced performance as the lawyer — you immediately identify with him because he is able to suggest fear and confusion so well. The cast also includes famed Indigenous Australian actor David Gulpilil (Crocodile Dundee), Olivia Hamnett (The Earthling), Nandjiwarra Amagula as the mystic Charlie and stage actor Fred Parslow as Chamberlain’s stepfather.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

I’m glad I revisited The Last Wave because it is an interesting and thought-provoking thriller. That being said, the movie isn’t for everyone. It’s deliberately paced and slightly surreal. It’s one of those films that stares at you with an inviting look to uncover its mysteries. If you liked director Peter Weir’s equally mysterious Picnic at Hanging Rock, I’m sure you will enjoy The Last Wave. Color, 106 minutes, Rated PG.

5 responses to “The Last Wave (1977)

  1. I just happen to have been trying to find this film to watch .Glad to have found this post. Not sure it’ll be up my alley, but I am intrigued. I loved Picnic at Hanging Rock.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, I really must get round to watching this. I love all of Weir’s stuff that I’ve seen, so I’m not sure why I haven’t made the effort to dig this one out. Many thanks for the reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

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