The film, “Australia” (2008), opens with a scenic backdrop as well as information on pre-World War II and its effect on Australia, specifically in the northern area. The film then transitions to the issue of Stolen Generations- the attempt of ‘whites’ to send mixed aboriginal children to mission homes on far islands to phase out their culture, setting the stage for the many complications and dramatic events in line to take motion.
With the main characters of Lady Sarah Ashley, an English aristocrat who inherits her husband’s ranch, and Drover, the cattle driver who reluctantly aggress to join forces to protect her property, attempt to herd about two thousand cattle hundreds of miles across the dangerous outback (called the “Never Never”) of Australia and into Darwin. After achieving their accomplishment to save Lady Ashley’s ranch and years spent together rebuilding the property as a family, they are shocked to witness the bombing of their city, Darwin, by Japanese forces—who prior to bombing Darwin, launched attack on Pearl Harbor.
Lady Ashley, Drover, and their newfound love for each other and in a mixed aboriginal child, Nullah, are separated due to their disagreements and left to find one another after the vicious bombs are dropped. Historically the film is set during the time period of 1939-1942, containing some accurate points in history, but in realistic terms, the accuracy dwindles. First off, there was in fact a policy set by Australian government to capture “half-caste” aboriginal children from their parents, initially to protect from abandonment, but developed into prejudice as their purpose transitioned into “[breeding] the black out of them”.
Another accurate scene in the film is the air raids of Darwin in 1942, with the citizens caught flat-footed and defenseless against the continuous bombs. The Japanese left the city of Darwin in ruins and despair with many innocent people left to die. In addition, the aboriginal language, Miriuwung, is accurately spoken throughout the movie, along with Australian ‘slang’ used to describe certain objects. Though there are many accurate factors, the historical-fictional film contains false statements against Australia’s history.
Firstly, the Japanese did not step foot on Australian soil after the bombing, though there are many rumors that beg to differ. The Japanese did bomb Australia, but their threats to invade faded, and they ended up never coming in physical contact with any part of the continent during the war. An additional fictitious scene is when the Japanese bomb the aboriginal children stuck on Mission Island. A Priest, just like in the film, saw the fighter planes heading their way and called into Darwin giving them a warning of what was coming their way.
Though there was an Island for the children, the bombing of the Island was an exaggeration of the tragedy. A major bias by the director Mark Anthony ‘Baz’ Luhrmann is the fact that was born and raised in the Australian culture. With being raised immersed in the history of his home country, he has the potential give a better light to Australia in describing the interaction between Japan and Australia as the bombs were being dropped. His bias is revealed as he exaggerates the Japanese stepping on Australian soil and bombing the innocent aborigine children on Mission Island.
The hero and heroine of the film is Lady Sarah Ashley, as she saves her husband’s ranch from foreclosure, and Drover, who protects Lady Ashley and saves the lives of the children stranded on Mission Island. Though their roles are not symbolic, Lady Ashley symbolizes her adaptation into the Australian culture when she first uses the word ‘crikey’. Because film is set mainly from the perspective of Nullah, the aboriginal child, the political views sent out by the film include the effects of the “half-caste” policy on aboriginal children and the distress it causes to their family.
To enhance the authenticity of the film, the director filmed the entire movie in different locations in Australia. Many of the scenes set in Darwin were actually filmed in Darwin, Australia to add an authentic touch. The role of music and the music used the movie magnifies the aboriginal customs and legitimates the time period the movie was set in. The reoccurrence of the song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, symbolizes a way of hope to those in distress, as the song did in history to the troops during World War II.
The song also relates back to aboriginal customs, giving us a feel of the importance of music in their culture. The costumes, along with accents, the actors wore and spoke of signified the social classes their roles were set in, like Lady Ashley’s wardrobe and English aristocracy accent signified a wealthy background, while Nullah’s wardrobe showed and use of Australian ‘slang’ resembled one of lower class. To intensify the Australian background, Lurhmann had actors who were of Aboriginal or Australian descent.
Some of the actors had prior knowledge to the conflicts and were able to efficiently fulfill the roles in adding an authentic touch to the film. At the beginning of them film, the factual information given of the past events that led to the start of the film was used to inform and enlighten the viewers. The purpose of the film having the point of view from an aboriginal child was to persuade us, and arouse emotions of sorrow against the “half-caste” act.
The romance between Drover and Lady Ashley was strictly for entertainment, though as Nullah became part of their family, it informs us of the prejudice the Australian government had, and reminds us of the segregation our own country similarly had. In addition, the scenes with Fletcher and Nullah’s mother also inform of the strong prejudice and control the ‘white’ people had over the aborigines to evoke the same feelings. The film focuses on impersonal choices that sweep other individuals along with them, such as the bombing of Darwin affecting Drover and Lady Ashley.
The bombs gave them the urge stop fighting with one another and find Nullah so they can be a family once again. The choice of the Japanese to bomb Darwin was uncontrollable, but effected the last minute decisions the people made in order to survive and be with their loved ones once more before their death. By having the focus be on impersonal choices, we are able to see the emphasis of ‘cause and effect’ in wars, and what truly lies in ones heart.