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Sara Elena Knight,
Two anthropologists married to each other go to an island off of Papua New Guinea for field research in pre-World War II. Eventually the war breaks out and many lives are disrupted and complicated. Written by
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I do regret that for the last few years I haven't lived in Melbourne. Then I might have got to meet the beautiful and talented Maya Stange. She's been treading the boards in the former JeffLand and it would have been a treat to have seen her at work on the stage.
She stars in In A Savage Land. Stange hails from Western Australia and this is her first lead role in a feature film.. But enough of that.
This unfortunate film was made by Australia's Bill Bennet (Kiss or Kill, Spider and Rose, Two If By Sea.)
Bill Bennet had an excellent leading lady in Maya Stange and an equally effective leading man in the fairly ubiquitous Englishman Rufus Sewell, but is hampered by an under worked script for which Bennet and his wife Jennifer, rather ill advisedly also take credit.
In A Savage Land tells the story of a pair of anthropologists (Maya Stange and Martin Donovan) who travel to the Trobriand islands near the then New Guinea. They're fascinated by the reported avid and animated sexual habits the natives are reported to exhibit.
Now this should start ringing alarm bells for mature cinema goers. The topic smacks of immaturity and shallowness, not necessarily, but we've seen cheap, easy sex, or the promise of it, ruin plenty of films before, most recently Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Should Have Been Shut.
Anyway off they go from England to check out the mating habits of the natives, having got married to get the job, establishing along the way some conflict between husband and wife regarding the position of an uppity, bright, modern woman who dares to have her own opinions.
Once they get to the tropics there's some business regarding who's supposed to be having sex with who in the village. Someone becomes offended and a native commits suicide. The white wife goes native and takes up with the local white trader (Rufus Sewell).
A cliched Australian colonial administrator (Max Cullen) and a similarly pat local evangelist (John Howard) make their pompous entries and exits and we find out almost nothing about the natives, or even the anthropologists even when the situation gets muddy and dangerous, and in spite of some spectacular scenery.
The film was reportedly filmed in Niu Guinea under trying circumstances but there seem to be at least a dozen fades to a black screen, a sure sign of a poorly organised effort. This film that could well have been called In A Slight Script.
It's difficult to become involved in a story with as many loose plot ends as this one, even one that stars the very promising Maya Stange.
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