Friday, September 23, 2011


Film-maker Baz Luhrmann is a great story-teller.  His 2008 epic Australia is a beautiful exploration of love and hatred both within and across tribes, both native and colonial.  Like the narrator, a young boy with an Aboriginal mother and a European father, who feels he is neither black nor white – that is, does not belong to either community – there are no black and white categories here.  Human relationships are far more complex than that.

The backdrop of the War allows us to further explore race attitudes.  The British/Australian belief that blackness could be bred out of mixed-race children, to their betterment, is the polar opposite of the contemporary German belief that blackness pollutes whiteness and must be wiped-out.  But there is no moral superiority here: these are opposing sides of the coin, and the currency itself is morally bankrupt.

In the end, there is only one race, the human race: composed of tribes, which form alliances and enmities; composed of families, constructed and reconfigured by unpredicted events; composed of complex, flawed, changing, redeemable persons.

There are no black and white categories; but there are all the essential types, for this is – as all the best stories are – a fairytale.  So we have the villain, a thoroughly nasty piece of work who meets a (necessary and satisfying) sticky end; the princess, who discovers that princesses have lot to learn about the world; the true king among men, who hides his heart, and must learn to share it; the failure, who is given the means of redemption at the very end of his life and so dies in peace; the wise sage, who guides and protects an innocent hero; the loyal friend, who lays down his life; the power-hungry over-lord, who must be thwarted before he ruins the land...In so many ways (not least the length) this is The Lord of the Rings set in our world – just as, in so many ways, The Lord of the Rings was the 1930s/40s set in another world.

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