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Against the background of an Australian desert, Sandy, a geologist, and Hiromitsu, a Japanese businessman, play out a story of human inconsequence in the face of the blistering universe. The end of the journey leaves no one capable of going back to where they started from. Written by
In an age when criticism has become debased and few people are really certain about what constitutes true worth in art, it is difficult to use the word "masterpiece" about any film. And yet that word is applicable here. At first this film appears to be just a bog-standard romantic love story, in the Hollywood mould, about two very different characters who meet and fall in love in unusual circumstances. Opposites attract, and so on.
However, as the story unfolds one becomes aware that there are many more levels to it than one would normally expect. Everything, from the title to incidental characters and the spectacular images of the desert, has been carefully thought out. It raises profound questions about a fashionable subject: identity, but also about love itself. Are these characters in love, or is it merely the terrifying starkness of the Australian outback that has thrown them together? Finally a third person enters the relationship, who complicates matters even further. Despite the romantic overtones of this film it is lifted, ultimately, by its absolute realism. Small gestures betoken whole story lines and glimpses of other characters throw the protagonists into sharp relief. Other influences begin to trickle through: Yasujiro Ozu, Peter Weir (in his early days), Japanese Haiku. And yet this is an entirely original work.
This film had a huge emotional impact on me, but it also made me think, about my own life and about the choices I've made. It did everything that a genuine work of art should do, and without any of the fanfare that we, in the West, have come to associate with art. Small wonder that it got little of the attention that in previous eras it would have attracted. Watch it, and discover that it is still possible to make a classic.
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