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The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

A young Australian reporter tries to navigate the political turmoil of Indonesia during the rule of President Sukarno with the help of a diminutive photographer.



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Won 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Billy Kwan
... Guy Hamilton
... Kumar
Domingo Landicho ... Hortono
Hermino De Guzman ... Immigration Officer
... Pete Curtis
Noel Ferrier ... Wally O'Sullivan
Paul Sonkkila ... Kevin Condon
Ali Nur ... Ali
Dominador Robridillo ... Betjak Man
Joel Agona ... Palace Guard
Mike Emperio ... Sukarno
Bernardo Nacilla ... Dwarf
... Colonel Henderson
... Jill Bryant


Guy Hamilton is a journalist on his first job as a foreign correspondent. His apparently humdrum assignment to Indonesia soon turns hot as President Sukarno electrifies the populace and frightens foreign powers. Guy soon is the hottest reporter on the story with the help of his photographer, half- Chinese dwarf Billy Kwan, who has gone native. Guy's affair with diplomat Jill Bryant also helps. Eventually Guy must face some major moral choices and the relationship between Billy and him reaches a crisis at the same time the politics of Indonesia does. Written by Reid Gagle

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A Love Caught In The Fire Of Revolution See more »


Drama | Romance | War


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

18 February 1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El año que vivimos en peligro  »


Box Office


$13,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$35,000, 21 January 1983, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The meaning and relevance of the title, is that it refers to a famous Italian quotation, "vivere pericolosamente", which translates into the English language as "living dangerously". Indonesian President Suharto used this phrase during his National Day Speech on August 17, 1964. E-Notes states that the novel "takes its title from Sukarno's term for 1965, the year in which the novel takes place." See more »


Note the the black Chevrolet, with left hand drive. Indonesians have generally operated right hand drive, and American cars were widely available in many parts of the world with right hand drive, in that era. Some USA manufacturers e.g. Ford Motor Company, GM, Chrysler did manufacture right hand drive automobiles in Canada for export to left hand traffic nations usually those from the British Commonwealth - in some cases some nations. e.g. Australia, South Africa, Thailand did assemble North American-market automobiles in their respective markets (especially with local content manufacture) where import tariffs are imposed. See more »


Guy Hamilton: What do you do at the embassy? Apart from socializing?
Jill Bryant: I work with Ralph.
Guy Hamilton: You a spy? You're a spook, aren't you?
Jill Bryant: If I were, I'd hardly tell you, would I?
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Referenced in The Godson (1998) See more »


White Cliffs of Dover
By Walter Kent (uncredited) and Nat Burton (uncredited)
Performed by Vera Lynn
Courtesy of EMI Records
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User Reviews

Elemental cinema
17 April 2011 | by See all my reviews

I had forgotten what it is to inhabit the frame, that is to be immersed not only in the world these characters experience but in the sensations made available in it. To feel a draught of air or the scorching heat.

Peter Weir here in his best period reminds me again. His fascination in this period with the otherworldly is firstly Australian, that of a man awed by the mysteries of an alien, ancient landscape that trumps comprehension, outlasts our follies and dreams, then foremostly mystical, implying a communion with worlds beyond.

In this world answers are denied us, and we can only hear vague echoes of the questions we have asked. This is Picnic at Hanging Rock as well as The Last Wave and The Year of Living Dangerously, the tingle of excitement and fear before this enormous complexity to which we are only small and transient. The Hanging Rock here becomes Jakarta.

These visions of Jakarta, a veritable jungle of humanity teeming with passions and cruelties, he presents from a point of view that communicates alienation and fear. When our white characters venture out into the crowded slums, human misery reaches out at them with filthy gaunt arms. All this he doesn't merely document for the sake of political discourse, he stylizes as an experience meant to stir things in the soul. This also outlines Weir's limitations; that these visions are perhaps too tawdry, the savages noble and the gnomes magical.

All this in mind, the film is best experienced for me as a spiritual journey. But towards what?

A dwarf is our guide through this, an ominpresent being that seems to create the story we are watching, an avatar of the filmmaker's consciousness. He narrates our hero's arrival, then makes him see his limits by offering him his folly, the desire for an exclusive story. In a poignant scene early in the film, holding shadow puppets before a canvas screen, he reveals to him a fundamental tenet of Buddhist thought. How desire clouds the soul so that reality itself becomes concave.

This is not always perfect of course, Peter Weir is no Antonioni after all. Our hero eventually gives up the big scoop to pursue love, but this is accomplished through violence perpetrated to him rather than a personal realization that comes from having experienced the folly of the mind (which Antonioni brilliantly dismantles for us in Blowup). Lying halfdead on a filthy bed somewhere in Jakarta, he remembers the wise words of how desire blinds the soul, but is none the wiser.

He doesn't willingly give up anything, which is to say even if his precious tape recorder (the tool by which he records the world, seeking "truth") is snatched from him in the airport at the last moment, he has essentially lost nothing that he doesn't carry inside of him.

Perhaps this is the film's apogee then, that faced with a chaos and violence which outlasts them and reveals them to be small and diminutive, mere specs of sand in the cosmic beach, the characters of the film stubbornly remain the same, having brushed off that encounter only as an exciting, dangerous escapade into the dark side.

The weather reflects that chaos in Weir's films, acting as an agent of transience whereby the world is shown to be in constant flux and motion. But the characters are phazed little by this, anxious to pursue their desires and enact their little charades of meaning. When a tropic downpour suddenly rains down on them, they laugh and play in it.

But if Weir's fascination with the mystical is entirely white Australian, his cinema is elemental, Aboriginal. Here is the communion made possible.

The fact that he unerringly insists to submerge his characters in these impenetrable worlds that defy understanding, where the sole reward is a moment's glimpse of the soul in spiritual hazard, means that the glimpse is reward enough because for that moment the apparent reality is peeled back to afford us a gaze into a yawning universe beyond. This yearning for the mechanisms of the universe to be made apparent is in itself the primal, ultimate urge of these films. The Last Wave takes us on the brink and gives us a vision of apocalypse (a revelation), this one stops just short of that.

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