A Sydney lawyer has more to worry about than higher-than-average rainfall when he is called upon to defend five Aboriginals in court. Determined to break their silence and discover the truth behind the hidden society he suspects lives in his city, the Lawyer is drawn further, and more intimately, into a prophesy that threatens a new Armageddon, wherein all the continent shall drown.
Directed by: Peter Weir
. Starring: Richard Chamberlain
, Olivia Hamnett
, David Gulpilil
, Frederick Parslow
, Vivean Gray
, Nandjiwarra Amagula
, Walter Amagula
, Roy Bara
, Cedrick Lalara
, Morris Lalara
, Peter Carroll
, Athol Compton
, Hedley Cullen
. Music by: Charles Wain
In our post-modern age we look over our shoulders with wistful nostalgia at ancient cultures, as if they were somehow superior. This finds its greatest thrust in the myth of Atlantis. Certainly there are ancient structures all over the world that are beyond the scope of moderns. There's also a sense that ancient cultures were closer not only to nature but the spiritual world. Ancient cultures had strong spiritual beliefs. Europeans are often put down, but before the so-called Enlightenment, medieval Europe was lived very much in respect of nature and intimately with a mystical spirituality. The Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution helped separate European man from these, possibly to his detriment; though few of us would prefer to go back to a day without indoor plumbing, central heating, aspirin, good roads, electric lighting, graded food, etc.
In reality, most ancient cultures were violent and very legalistic. Hopefully, no one wants to see the Aztecs return. Though Cortez crushed the Aztecs, they surely did the same to the Toltecs, and possibly the Anasazi. They were a brutal people, cutting the hearts out of living sacrifices to appease their bloodthirsty gods. And many ancient cultures were the same. They lived close to nature and the spiritual world -- but also in fear of it, and the appeasement of these forces often came in the form of blood. And because the cultures were extraordinarily legalistic, even small breaches of the law were punished with the harshest penalties.
In "The Last Wave", a young Australian lawyer, Burton, (Richard Chamberlain, whose performance is remarkable despite, or because of, his blatant lack of an Australian accent) is called upon to defend several young men of aboriginal descent of murder. Chamberlain is a typical modern man, with a nice house and family. His case looks typically open and shut. He will put up his best defense, but it looks hopeless. The defendants are surly and unhelpful. Burton is also troubled with dreams and visions. Especially troubling is the repeated appearance of one of his clients, and ancient stones with aboriginal markings. Then the odd this start happening, like black rain. And on top of this, a straightforward murder case is unfolding to be a shamanistic ritual killing of a violator of tribal code. Burton becomes obsessed with the case, not with trying to prove his clients innocent but to protect his own sanity, and find out what's going on that's tearing his ordinary modern life apart.
"The Last Wave" is a challenging movie. Nothing is laid out for the audience. Viewers must rely on their own inferences to deduce the meaning of the movie, if the movie has any meaning at all. Like many directors in similar situations, Peter Weir can't resist the temptation to be pretentious. His obfuscation also becomes tedious after a while, and only the sense of desperation Richard Chamberlain projects gives the film tension. Without an actor of Chamberlain's ability, the film is so thin it would surely fall apart.
Worth seeing as an early for of Peter Weir, and for Chamberlain's performance, but don't expect any easy answers.
Review by Ephraim Gadsby from the Internet Movie Database.