Wake in Fright is the story of John Grant, a bonded teacher who arrives in the rough outback mining town of Bundanyabba planning to stay overnight before catching the plane to Sydney. But his one night stretches to five and he plunges headlong toward his own destruction. When the alcohol-induced mist lifts, the educated John Grant is no more. Instead there is a self-loathing man in a desolate wasteland, dirty, red-eyed, sitting against a tree and looking at a rifle with one bullet left... Written by
It is this film which tells me more about Australia than any other.
Shown this film by Australian film scholar Cath Ellis i was captivated from start to finish. It is this film which does not flinch from the heart of Australian masculinity. There is no romanticism as with that found in Gallipoli or Newsfront.
We are slowly drawn into the disintegrating world of a hapless teacher who is trapped in the Australian interior. This isn't the Australian dream of the new frontier, this is a vision of Hell.
By the finale you will be swearing (as many Australian students apparently do when confronted with this film) that it cannot be that bad, the rampant hyper masculinity on display is too much and too wantonly violent. Hmmm.
The film is notorious for scenes of a Kangaroo being brutally murdered by a pack of drunken men engaging in an uncontrollably escalating series of dares. It is one of the most damning scenes about the pillage of Australia you could ever see. But like a train wreck you cannot avert your eyes.
On a cheekily upbeat note, look out for Donald Pleasance who seems to be enjoying the whole thing far too much. It looks like they were paying him in beer...
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