Gallipoli (1981)

Gallipoli
Directed by Peter Weir
Written by Peter Weir and David Williamson
(number 317)

Familiar director’s name… Peter Weir. Oh right. Dead Poet’s Society, Truman Show, Witness. One of these directors who I like without realising that I like them. It’s with trepidation I started this movie up, because dear god, I learned about Gallipoli as a child. I know how badly this goes for the ANZACS. I had a great-grandfather at El Alamein. There’s just no way this is going to be an uplifting movie.

Damn this film. Having a half hour opening sequence with the boys just being so damn cute and Australian and full of hope, etc etc. Being excited about running races. Perfect for making me love them as people before the inevitable putting through Hell that will happen at the war. Then they’re in the army and just being cute, excited lads in Egypt and I can feel the doom getting closer and closer.

The format of the film reminds me of Full Metal Jacket, actually. The start with the innocence and the training, etc and then the travel to the place at war with a little fun, a little frivolity and then the harsh, stark reality of war and death.

Once they were at Gallipoli it still held off on the horror. In fact there were baby Mel Gibson butt shots and jokes and the contrast between the men who’d been there too long and the new arrivals. But once the fighting began in earnest you feel the dispair. The film doesn’t shy away from showing glimpses of what it means to know you’re about to die – men taking off their medals, wedding rings, writing letters to loved ones to leave behind. Hoping that somehow it’ll be transported back home.

Does it make me love the people? Hell yes. Archy first, so young and fresh faced and pretty. Then baby Mel Gibson, Frank. He’s brilliant in this movie, just brilliant. Playing a line between genuine and smarmy and rocking it. You do feel for the men as things get worse.

Bill Hunter (mandatory role in any Australian film) is likewise amazing as Major Barton, stuck in between a stupid decision from higher up and whether the young men in his care live or die.

Bechdel test: No, there’s a couple of women here and there but this is a movie about Australian lads and the trials they face.

Best line:

Jack: What are your legs?
Archy Hamilton: Springs. Steel springs.
Jack: What are they going to do?
Archy Hamilton: Hurl me down the track.
Jack: How fast can you run?
Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard.
Jack: How fast are you going to run?
Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard!
Jack: Then let’s see you do it!

Major Barton: I won’t ask my men to do what I won’t do myself.

State of Mind: Fuck war. Much as expected, from what I knew going in for Gallipoli, this wasn’t ever going to go well. I didn’t expect to enjoy this movie as much as I did though, it’s total genius. Beautifully made character stuff with no punches pulled about the idiocy of the maneuvers. Damn, though the early part of the film, the sequence of the race Archy does barefoot against a man on horseback. It’s really a lovely film. I may even watch it again, I’ll just maybe… stop it at a certain point.

Watched movie count

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