Published 25 March 2021
Film scholar Bruce Isaacs invites us to witness the embedded violence present in Australia’s hostile landscape and its aesthetic realisation in the landmark 1971 film Wake in Fright.
“Wake in Fright is a deeply — and I mean deeply — unsettling and disturbing movie. I saw it when it premiered at Cannes in 1971, and it left me speechless.”
After more than three decades in relative obscurity, Wake in Fright (1971) was rediscovered in 2009 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece of the Australian cinema. Helmed by a Canadian director and filmed entirely in Broken Hill, the film is an intriguing part of the Australian film renaissance of the early 1970s, and yet it is quite unlike any film ever produced in Australia. It’s a familiar story, but what strikes the viewer is the way in which the Australian ‘outback’ mythology comes alive and is contested and rewritten in stunning images of the landscape. This is a deeply unsettling film about Australian masculinity mapped onto the violence imbued in the land, and it remains a caustic reminder of troubled histories that inform our own narratives of the country and its people.
Bruce Isaacs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art History. His research focusses on a wide range of film studies-related topics: histories of film (with a focus on Hollywood, though he has abiding interests in various ‘New Waves’ and movements), film aesthetics and style, critical approaches to film production, film and popular culture (including the relationship between film and other pop culture art forms such as television, literature and music). Bruce is currently intrigued by various developments in High Concept Hollywood and its evolution of new aesthetic practices, including digital and 3D cinema.
This event is part of The Living Room Theatre’s Bottled Up Micro-festival curated by Michelle St Anne and Jacques Emery in partnership with the Sydney Environment Institute and City of Sydney. A series of theatrical sound nights, academic panels and artist talks that explore themes of violence against women and the environment.
The Wake in Fright Film Screening addresses themes of the Sunlit Noir, a thematic pillar of the Sites of Violence research project that merges artistic and academic understandings of human and non-human experiences of violence, and the processes, emotions, and meaning that this violence reveals.