Turner Classic Movies spotlights the films of Peter Weir this month and I wrote about Gallipoli, which plays in the line-up.
Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1981) recreates not just the battle but the culture patriotism and dreams of glory that inspired thousands of Australian men to enlist for a European war that otherwise had no effect on the island nation. It explores and challenges the mythology that has grown up around this defining event, celebrated in history books and song as a heroic display of courage in the face of overwhelming odds; Gallipoli was Australia’s Alamo, where a kind of victory is found in military defeat. In the words of Weir scholar Marek Haltof, it was “for Australia, the baptism of fire and, consequently, the birth of a nation.” That’s an ambitious undertaking for Weir, coming off of acclaimed low-budget films like Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) and The Last Wave (1977), and for the fledgling Australian film industry which was just beginning to find international success for its national cinema.
Plays Friday, November 19 on Turner Classic Movies. Also available on DVD.