Weir's "Walkabout" (1971)

In 1962-1972, the barren landscape shifts as the beleagured Oz film industry, enlivened by the introduction of colour film and more liberal attitudes, changes tack and begins to reveal a wider subject mix. Aboriginal Australians and migrant stories are touched upon. Experimental films, such as those of Dusan Marek, are made for art's sake. We begin to see the Christian faith, religion and its administrators (preachers, priests, etc.) examined in less favourable light. This was also the start of the sexual revolution that gave rise to Oz cult classics like Alvin Purple and Barry MacKenzie.

Adam and Eve*
(1962) Dusan Marek [10mins, experimental animation]
'A story of man from the creation to the bomb'(1), 'Adam and Eve is 'a near-abstract, animated allegory on the creation of humanity, was winner of the AFI Grand Prix, and awards overseas. For this film, Marek cut out geometrically stylised human figures with several replaceable decorative elements, mainly circular, which are overlaid frame by frame and rapidly alternated to create a vibrating energy field, a 'transparent fluidum', as he described it.' (2)

They're A Weird Mob*
(1966) Michael Powell [112mins]
'The film version of the very popular comic novel about the exploits of an Italian migrant, Nino Culotta. The humour played on Australian slang and its incomprehensibility as well as on Ocker mateship, the Italian gradually being accepted by the locals. When Nino wants to marry Kelly's daughter (an Irish Catholic) and Dad hesitates, he points to the photo on the wall, the framed Italian in a place of honour, Pope Paul VI. Kellys and Cullottas find common ground in the Church.'(3)

Squeeze a Flower
(1970) Marc Daniels [106mins]
'An Italian priest, Brother George, is the sole guardian of a secret recipe for a liqueur, Liquore D'Oro, which provides the main source of income for his monastery. To escape pressures on him to reveal the recipe for commercial gain, George travels incognito to Australia, where he finds work in a Hunter Valley vineyard owned by another Italian, Alfredo Brazzi. He begins to produce his special liqueur for Brazzi and sends his share of the profits back to the monastery. After resisting several attempts by Brazzi to discover his secret, George manages to secure favourable terms for marketing it and returns to Italy.'(4) This film received little success 'with its fey, cartoon-like portrait of a monastery.'(5)

Walkabout*
(1971) Nicolas Roeg [100mins]
'Two children are left stranded in the Australian desert having survived their father's (John Meillon) attempt to destroy the family.' They encounter an Aboriginal youth (David Gulpilil) who is on his ritual walkabout, as part of his tribal initiation into manhood. As they travel together, he begins to court the girl (Jenny Agutter), who, 'in her incomprehension...rejects [his] advances', leading to a tragic end. The vision of paradise lost, presented with an often surreal intensity, is that of an European outsider, who sees white history as invasive and deeply destructive.'(6)

And the Word Was Made Flesh*
(1971) Dusan Marek [65mins, experimental]
Although the title is distinguishably biblical, the film is an 'experimental narrative' presenting 'a series of surrealist actions'. 'Time is manipulated freely, often with reverse actions, repetitions and a flow of images designed as a musical composition to be perceived and enjoyed 'instinctively' by the audience without explanations from the film-maker '.(7)

The Priest (Libido Series)
(1973) Fred Schepisi - 3rd episode of four in Libido (1973) Murray, Burstall, Schepisi & Baker[118mins]
'The story of the tortured love between a priest (Arthur Dignam) and a nun (Robin Nevin). Although it cannot be consummated, the intensity of their love drives the priest to a nervous breakdown, and he tries in vain to persuade the nun to join him in renouncing their vows so that they may marry.'(8) 'Fr Stephen Burns is unable to cope with the role of priest and his official ministry...He declares he has lost his faith,' his discontent manifests in sexual fantasies and dreams about Sister Caroline, one of the convent teachers. Caroline loves Stephen but asks him to wait several months, she 'wants to act with integrity. She expresses an awareness of responsibilities in the school, what she owes her parents and of people's opinions and feelings. She refers to old bigoted stories about tunnels between convents and presbyteries, and nuns being 'priests' whores'.' She is willing to live with him 'until he receives an official dispensation from Rome to marry, but she wants a 'proper' Catholic wedding in a church. But Fr Stephen 'is gripped by the Church he wants to be free from and and rebels against. He will not give in and damns Caroline's superior when Caroline refuses to leave.''(9)


Sources:
1) Andrew Pike & Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900-1977 - A guide to feature film production. Oxford University Press: Melbourne. 1981. pp. 334
2) Experimenta Media Arts: Mesh #1: "MIMA at the State Film Theatre; Dusan Marek Retrospective" http://www.experimenta.org/mesh/mesh01/1marek.html
3) Peter Malone, From Back Pews to Front Stalls - the Churches in 100 years of Australian cinema. Peter Malone (ed.) National Capital Printing: Fyshwick. 1996
4) Pike & Cooper, ibid. pp. 319
5) Peter Malone, "Catholics - Faithful, Lapsed and Hostile" in Malone (ed.), ibid. pp. 18
6) Peter Tapp (ed.) & James Sabine (a. ed.) "Walkabout" in Australian Feature Films on CD-Rom. Informit, RMIT: Melbourne. 1995.
7) Pike & Cooper, ibid. pp. 334
8) Pike & Cooper, ibid. pp. 345
9) Peter Malone, "Catholics - Faithful, Lapsed and Hostile" in Malone (ed.), ibid. pp. 18-19