Stuart Murray


In Gallipoli, Peter Weir's 1981 examination of nationalist sentiment and myth, the central protagonists, Archie Hamilton (Mark Lee) and Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson), are both members of the Western Australian Light Horse, a cavalry regiment and part of the 1st Australian Imperial Force that takes part in the conflict at Gallipoli in April 1915. Archie's death at the end of the narrative — charging into the Turkish guns — and Frank's ultimate survival conclude the film's often self-indulgent meditation on the nature of the national imaginary. In seeing Archie's death as tragedy, and Frank's survival in terms of a materialist nationalism and the guilt of the fall from an imperial innocence, Gallipoli underlines a number of national orthodoxies even as it seeks to hold others up for scrutiny. Australia, the film asserts, is still best understood in terms of its expression as an arena of male bonding and competition, a space where the interrelationship between the individual and the environment is pivotal in outlining identity, and where the key virtues of Anglo-Celtic pioneer capability and knowledge continue to help define community. The naivety of the imperial relationship may ultimately be seen to be over, but as Archie and Frank race across the athletics tracks of Western Australia as youths, or through the sand to the Pyramids at the Army's Egyptian training camp, the idea of the national community in this piece of early 1980s culture still has much in common with the late nineteenth-century cultural nationalism of the 'Coming Man' and the Bulletin (White 63-84; Turner 25-53 and 107-27).



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