Many Australian films explore the concept of ‘overcoming adversity’, common to films from many countries but they explore it in a manner unique to Australia and embrace the ‘Aussie Battler’ or ‘Aussie Hero’ icon. The films Gallipoli (Directed by Peter Weir – 1981) and Ned Kelly (Directed by Gregor Jordan – 2003) are two good examples of this. Both films show evidence of characters overcoming adversities throughout their stories. The following will analyse each film and explore the concept by looking at themes and film techniques.
The characters in the film Gallipoli, Frank and Archie, develop a very close friendship throughout their tough journey together. This special bond they have helps them to overcome the terrible adversity of going to war. Going to war involved the two men being away from their family and friends, being in a new environment, confronting death and learning to live according to strict rules and regulations. All of this would be very difficult for young men like Frank and Archie to overcome, were it not for the two friends close relationship.
This mateship, Frank and Archie developed, is very typical of the way Australians are represented in the media. The two compete in a footrace, and as they grow closer, continue to compete in a friendly fashion, even when it means terrible danger for the ‘winner. ‘ They sacrifice to try and save each others lives on a few occasions. They are portrayed in a heroic like way, for their ability to struggle though these hardships. Similarly, the characters in the film Ned Kelly also portray a theme of mateship. This is displayed through the relationships between the members of the gang and their families.
Ned Kelly has an enormous ‘prize on his head. ’ He has trust in his friends and family that they will not turn him in and because of the strong bond of mateship that they have between them, no one does, even with the large sum of money rewarded to he who turns Ned Kelly in to the police. The trust and respect they have for one another strengthens their ability to combat the corrupt police. The film Gallipoli takes place in World War 1. It was a common belief that all young men should represent and fight for their country in the war, or be judged and named selfish etcetera; therefore, Archie and Frank felt they had o be a part of it and signed up. An adversity justly overcome by both characters. They also had to overcome the terrifying adversity of fear to prove to themselves, and others, that they were able to deal with the hardship of warfare and suffering. Likewise in Ned Kelly, the characters overcame the adversity of judgment from others by doing what they thought was the right thing to do – battling for their rights, which in turn earned the respect of friends, some citizens and family.
They attempted to overcome the adversity of discrimination against the Irish held at the time by the majority of other Australians. Police treated them unfairly because of where they were from. Discrimination causes a lot of tension between characters in the film. The outcome of this tension proves the main character, Ned Kelly, to be a true Aussie battler. The most powerful scene of the film Gallipoli is the final scene. The musical score intensifies the struggle, despair and hopelessness of the situation. It helps the audience to relate and feel sympathy towards the character.
This scene is depicts the character overcoming his adversity of fear and becoming and ‘Aussie hero’ as he runs into battle however, even though he has overcome his fear, it does not end well. The music used expresses this loss. The film ends on a still shot of Archie as he is being shot by his enemies. This camera effect has a high impact on the audience and has a large shock factor. This particular still scene almost feels as though it’s symbolic of an iconic figure. Ned Kelly, in some scenes, uses similar music to create similar moods and emotions as in Gallipoli.
One particular scene where the characters are hiding in a hotel, surrounded by police, there is the feeling of suspense and fear in the music in the same way as in Gallipoli, where the men are waiting for the whistle to signal them to fight. Throughout most of the movie, the lighting is quite dark. It symbolises all the emotions and feelings of the characters as they struggle through all the hardship of their lives, as they try to overcome disrespect and suffering and gain basic human rights. The dark lighting throughout the film also symbolises how hard it was for the characters to overcome the adversities they faced.
Archie symbolises the young generation lost to World War 1. The plot about Archie and Frank, the two heroes in the film, is designed to symbolize and glorify the old Australian ideal of mate ship. Ned Kelly’s famous armor has become a symbol of courage and determination similarly to the lines from Gallipoli said by Archie’s running coach to him: ‘How fast can you run? ’ and Archie replies, ‘As fast as a leopard! ’ they both symbolize willpower and purpose. No main character in either film will be deterred from getting what they want. This depicts Australians to be rather imperturbable.
Both movies share a strong mate ship discourse. Friendships grow and trust and respect is gained. The theme of conflict is clear in both films as they both have major battle scenes. Mate ship and Conflict are very common themes in comparing these two films. Gallipoli and Ned Kelly are seen as iconic films which deal with these heroic Australian stories in a distinctively Australian way. The themes of both movies are associated with the Australian ways of life. Overcoming adversities are something Australians take pride in accomplishing and these two films portray this Australian pride through and through.