In 1964, atomic war wipes out humanity in the northern hemisphere; one American submarine finds temporary safe haven in Australia, where life-as-usual covers growing despair. In denial about the loss of his wife and children in the holocaust, American Captain Towers meets careworn but gorgeous Moira Davidson, who begins to fall for him. The sub returns after reconnaissance a month (or less) before the end; will Towers and Moira find comfort with each other? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
At the very beginning of the film, a radio announcer is heard reporting that no life survives anywhere but Australia. Later Admiral Bridie suggests that it might be possible for life to continue in Antarctica, indicating that that continent is also not yet affected by radiation. In any event, the basic premise - that Australia would still harbor life while every other site on the globe has been destroyed or rendered lifeless - including, among other places, New Zealand, farther south and much less of a target than Australia would be - is illogical and physically a virtual impossibility. (By contrast, in the novel the entire Southern Hemisphere is untouched by the atomic war itself, though the radioactivity gradually drifts southward.) See more »
We are all on that beach, on the thin line between life and death.
And the essence of our lives is expressed in the way we treat each other under the implacable threat of imminent mortality. As Ava Gardner's character says, at the penultimate moment of love's farewell, "It's been nice, Dwight Lionel. It's been everything." And what she says on her beach is true for every last one of us, on ours.
The primary power of this great movie to me is how well it conveys the idea that for us, on this beach, love and tender kindness are all that matter in the end, and the end is always near. The sheer kindness that Ava and Gregory's characters express for each other is surely the key element of their triumphant relationship.
The moment in which their relationship most completely triumphs, of course, occurs at the Narbethong Hotel. "On The Beach" achieves a cinematic moment of genius when the chorus singing "Waltzing Matilda" changes from a rowdy crowd of drunks to a magnificently harmonious group of fine male voices. As the sheer beauty of the music overwhelms us, it also overwhelms our characters, and we all unite together in a sublime moment of awareness that true love and kindness give us our only victory over imminent death. "You'll never take me alive," says the ghost.
The way Gregory Peck's character shifts from fumbling with the fire to turning toward Ava as the music inspires transcendence, and the way Ava smiles at him, make this scene unforgettably great.
Nearly as wonderful is the scene in which Ava's character learns that the Sawfish will be leaving, with her captain at the helm. She will have to face her death alone. She doesn't waste a moment in argument or recrimination, but expresses the fullness of her love for him and her great courage when she accepts his decision and thanks him: "..it's been everything." And then: "oh, I'm so frightened." This moment is one that I take to heart. It shows the love and courage I wish to have "when the time comes."
There is still time, brothers and sisters. But we are all on the beach.
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